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Pool plea from disability worker

PUBLISHED: 08:19 11 June 2003 | UPDATED: 13:59 03 March 2010

A FORMER county swimming champion who works with the disabled is so concerned safety issues are not being tackled at a town leisure centre he is taking his fears to the Local Government Ombudsman.

A FORMER county swimming champion who works with the disabled is so concerned safety issues are not being tackled at a town leisure centre he is taking his fears to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Ray Cattermole, a former competitive swimmer with Stowmarket Swimming Club, is taking the action because he feels Mid Suffolk District Council has not addressed his concerns about the authority's leisure centre in Gainsborough Road, Stowmarket.

Mr Cattermole, 65, from Earl Stonham, has outlined a number of worries.

He said there should be a shallow set of steps to allow the disabled easy access - and escape in an emergency - which other pools have and are not in place at Stowmarket.

Youngsters ran and jumped into a crowded shallow end of pool during a recent open session in school holidays with mothers and children, said Mr Cattermole, a Suffolk swimming champion from 1953 to 1957.

There are notices around the pool saying swimmers should not run around, but he believes more should be done to stop this.

And in one part of the centre, he says he has seen equipment stored in front of an emergency door.

Mr Cattermole, a volunteer co-ordinator for the Big Splash, which runs sessions for disabled people, said he would like more attention spent on health and safety issues.

But a spokeswoman for the council said such issues were of paramount importance at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre – and revealed shallow access steps were being introduced.

She said: "There is a comprehensive system of risk assessments in place, reviewed on a regular basis. Regular health and safety training is organised by the council and is a key element of the council's training plan. The emergency evacuation plans are frequently practiced.

"However, even the best laid theories and plans do not make up for the possibility of human error and, together with regular reminders for duty managers and staff to remain vigilant and safety conscious at all times, we rely on service users like Mr Cattermole to bring particular concerns to our attention.

"We are aware of and are addressing Mr Cattermole's concerns about disabled access. Money has been set aside for the purchase of shallow access steps for the pool.

"Rethink Disability has recently written to the leisure centre management complimenting the centre on the improvements to disabled access resulting from the installation of the new entrance.

"We constantly review our health and safety practice and Mr Cattermole's concerns are accommodated in an ongoing programme designed to benefit all our users.''

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