Published: 14:25, 23 June 2020
| Updated: 14:27, 23 June 2020
A hugely popular outdoor pool will remain closed all year - as bosses say reopening with social distancing in place is not financially viable.
Trustees of Faversham Pools have announced the centre's outdoor pool will stay shut until 2021 - while its indoor pool will not reopen until September at the earliest.
With almost a quarter-of-a-million visitors each year, the centre is one of Faversham’s most popular attractions.
From May to September, its heated outdoor pool and rapids provide thousands with hours of summer entertainment, while year-round the indoor pools offer those of all ages and abilities the chance to learn vital swimming skills.
The attraction has thrived since it opened 56 years ago, and last year, it was named the second-best lido in the country in a Daily Mail ranking of the nation’s favourite swimming spots.
But the centre - a registered charity - was forced to close on March 22 due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, its income has evaporated, and bosses have been left struggling to secure its future.
When the government will allow swimming pools to reopen remains unclear.
But Faversham Pools bosses say they "simply would not be able to cover costs" if they reopened this summer, with social distancing measures in place.
"Social distancing means that far fewer swimmers would be allowed in at once," they explained. "School groups will be staying away until after the holidays. And lessons will be affected by the need to distance from each other."
Chairman of Trustees Geoff Wade says the decision to stay shut will help secure the charity’s long-term stability.
He said: "We cannot allow the charity to reopen only to make a loss which could put us out of business; it would be catastrophic and risks closure for the future.
"We know that people will be extremely disappointed - we are disappointed too - but have to do what is right to stay at the heart of this community for years to come. We’ll be spending the summer looking at ways to improve and refresh our facilities so we come back even better than ever!"
The pandemic has left Faversham Pools without income, yet facing bills of more than £15,000 each month to help cover essential maintenance, utilities and insurance.
This year, it will go without the income usually generated by the busy summer season, which typically supports it through the much quieter winter months.
The charity recently launched a fundraising appeal, to support it while it is closed.
The appeal, which invites swimmers to donate the cost of their usual swim, has so far raised more than £4,000.
Development Manager Marylka Gowlland said: "A very sincere thank you to everyone who has contributed to our appeal and sent messages of support. Every penny has helped us to keep going through these difficult weeks, and will put us in the best possible position for reopening."
To donate to the fundraiser, click here.