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Dunnet mum slams Thurso pool restrictions


By David G Scott

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A MOTHER from the Dunnet area talked about her "disappointment and frustration" over current restrictions in force at Thurso Leisure Centre (TLC).

The Covid-19 restrictions in place at the facility mean that Estie Broughton cannot take her 4-year-old son Jordan for a swimming lesson as the pool is for single-lane use only.

Estie with her son Jordan while on holiday in Greece last year.
Estie with her son Jordan while on holiday in Greece last year.

"After much anticipation of the pools being re-opened from Monday, August 31, I rang up Thurso Leisure Centre to book a session with my 4-year-old son," said Mrs Broughton.

"I was devastated that only lane swimming is currently allowed as they do not want people being stationary in the pool. How this decision was reached, by whom and with what discussion is a mystery."

Mrs Broughton believes that some key issues need to be addressed with regard to the matter and the "risk to children is significant" if not resolved soon.

"We live in an area surrounded by sea and filled in by lochs and rivers and not being able to swim can endanger someone’s life," she said.

"Children are much more adept at learning to swim at a young age than when they are older. Children need to be introduced to the pool as young as possible to gain confidence in the water and this needs to be kept up to raise confident young swimmers.

Jordan 'panning for gold' in St John’s Loch, Dunnet. His mother says he loves the water.Picture: Estie Broughton
Jordan 'panning for gold' in St John’s Loch, Dunnet. His mother says he loves the water.Picture: Estie Broughton

"Cold water bodies such as lochs and the sea are not suitable environments for teaching young children how to swim. It is dangerous both from a drowning and hypothermia point of view. They will paddle in it but can do no more."

She says that her four-year-old son is desperate to get back in the pool and frequently asks when they can go. "He was just at the breakthrough stage to start swimming unaided before the lockdown. I fear the months out of the pool has set him back and the longer this continues the more time he will need to regain his skills."

Mrs Broughton has taken the matter up with Jamie Stone – the MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross – and High Life Highland (HLH) which is in charge of the TLC facility.

When she contacted HLH she was not informed of a date for the reintroduction of family swims and said she was disappointed there was "no clear date to look forward to".

"Restaurants and shops are open where people pass each other very closely and frequently. Having a limited number of families in the pool could easily achieve the social distancing requirements.

"Parents with young children need indoor activities in an exposed climate like the north of Scotland, especially now summer is drawing to a close. There is a great sense of unfairness that competent swimmers can use the pool, but those who most need it are denied."

Mrs Broughton says the fear of Covid-19 should not ruin the "safety, mental health and physical health" of children. "Children must be placed first in all council and government decisions."

Graeme Ross, principal facilities manager for High Life Highland, said: “As part of our phased approach to reopening facilities we are currently able to offer lane swimming at swimming pools across the Highlands and are working with Scottish Swimming to review the guidance.

"We are planning to be able to introduce family swims from mid-September at all sites.”

Mrs Broughton was delighted to hear the news about the reintroduction of family swims and thanked the John O'Groat Journal for helping get her the updated information.

Swimmers and gym users can return to East Caithness Community Facility from Monday



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