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AS THE WORLD Swimming Championships took place in Manchester this month – with 18 world records broken in five days – youngsters across the UK fished out their swimming gear and headed for the nearest community pools.

But some lucky families only had to step into their garden for the thrill of swimming right outside their back door.

There was a time when a swimming pool in the garden was the must-have item for the rich and famous – but now costs are well within the reach of modest income families.

“Swimming pools are now seen as a way to keep the family fit with great exercise in your own surroundings,” says Tom Holman, managing director of Fowler Swimming Pools in West Sussex, one of the UK’s oldest and most respected pool companies, celebrating 60 years in the business (www.fowlergroup.co.uk)

“Children love them and adults enjoy entertaining their friends around the poolside with barbecues and evening drinks. Even the weather doesn’t have to be a problem now because we can create covered pool areas for all-year-round use.”

With an estimated 6,000 pools built each year in the UK (worth £250million) the industry has never looked so buoyant.

“Modern pool construction methods have slashed both the time it takes to build a swimming pool and the cost,” says Richard Carrington, chairman of SPATA, the regulatory body for the UK swimming pool industry.

In fact the choice on the market is now huge – ranging from quality, above-ground models for the budget-conscious, starting at around £3,000, through to fully tiled, reinforced concrete pools costing from £35,000-upwards.

Prospective swimming pool purchasers should research the market carefully before taking the plunge, warns Tom Holman of Fowler Swimming Pools.

“By choosing a SPATA-registered supplier or contractor, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you are dealing with a reputable company with the necessary experience, expertise and back-up, should you encounter any problems,” says Tom.

FIRST STEPS

When planning a swimming pool, set a budget and think carefully about who is going to use it, how it will be used and when. All these factors should be taken into account before making the final choice.

Think carefully about the size and location of the new pool – and the possibility of extending its use all year round with an enclosure. Although this will obviously add to the cost – the benefits in terms of usage could be huge.

LUXURY OPTION

A fully-tiled, reinforced concrete pool takes the title for being top of the range when it comes to home pool options.

Usually finished with tiles or mosaics, concrete pools can be as glamorous and elaborative as wanted, with prices starting at around £35,000.

While this may seem a lot of money initially, many such pools will last up to 30 years – which actually makes them great value in the long term.

For those looking for a mid-priced investment, a panel and liner pool offers a realistic alternative with prices starting at around £20,000. Taking about a month to install, liners will need replacing every ten years or so and come in a variety of colours and patterns including very convincing mock tiling or mosaic.

ALL-IN-ONE OPTION

A quick-fix alternative, and gaining in popularity all the time, is the one-piece pool that can be up and running within around two weeks and will cost upwards of around £15,000.

These are available as fibreglass or ceramic all-in-one moulds and are simply lowered into a pre-prepared hole. They use the same technology as that used by builders of luxury motor cruisers and can be fitted with all the necessary equipment, such as skimmers, drain, inlets, pump filter and lights, before they are even delivered.

The complete structure is craned into position and lowered onto a pre-prepared excavation with a crushed gravel base. Once all the pre-assembled pipe-work is connected, a concrete surround collar is fitted and coping or paving stones are put in place. Then it is ready for use!

TAKING THE DECISION

Whatever type of pool is decided on, take time planning and preparing.

“Talk to a pool builder about the options and talk to former clients who have dealt with the pool company,” says Tom.

“SPATA is the industry watchdog and it is worth ensuring the company you deal with are members. They offer a warranty scheme that guarantees the work of its members and a mediation service in the unlikely event of anything going wrong.”

Here are some of Tom’s tips on swimming pools:

· Rural properties tend to have larger gardens which make them the ideal location for a home swimming pool, but even if a garden is small it is possible to install a counter-current unit in the pool, and swimmers move against a fast flowing swim jet. A great workout, even over a short distance.

· Remember that the size and depth of the pool will determine the cost of maintaining it and heating it. Professionals will be able to advise on energy-saving methods such as heat pumps and pool covers.

· While most outdoor pools do not need planning permission, it is best to check with the local planning department before work starts - particularly if the pool is to be located close to a road, or in the grounds of a property with listed status.

“Word of mouth and recommendation is by far the best way of finding the right company,” says Tom (www.fowlergroup.co.uk).

“It is important that you develop an on-going relationship with the constructor – especially those who will offer service and maintenance contracts to ensure pools perform at optimum performance.

“My advice is to talk to past clients of a company and find out how they managed a project and whether the finished product was up to scratch.”

What are the main issues in installing a swimming pool? “Health and safety has become a big concern,” says Tom. “We are fitting more and more pool safety covers because of fears about children’s safety.

“Then you have to consider filters, pumps and boilers for heating water – and there are options which are very environment-friendly, like ground source heat pumps which take the heat out of the ground to heat the water.

“Solar heating is also an option, but usually needs back-up with our unpredictable climate. There are also air-to-water heat pumps which take heat out of the atmosphere.”

Weather will always play a part in the time a project takes.

“Rain and frost can hamper spraying the concrete onto the mesh framework,” says Tom. “Poor weather will also affect tiling and can make the surrounding area difficult to move around on.

“You have to be prepared for disruption. No matter how careful a contractor is, there will be mess - and the homeowner has to be made aware of that.”

A reasonable size in-ground pool, for example 10 metres by five metres, with an automatic cover would take about three months to complete and cost up to £50,000.

Always have a contingency fund for extra costs that have not been considered.

“It is always advisable,” says Tom Holman, “to have an emergency fund of about 10 per cent of the estimated cost. Often things crop up which have not been considered and it is best to be prepared.”

AT-A-GLANCE GUIDE TO HOME POOLS

The first steps

When you start planning the pool you will need to go through a checklist of options such as who will use it and when. If you are opting for a garden pool, then think about extending its use all year round with an enclosure.

Planning

Most pools do not need planning permission, unless the property is listed or in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) or is a listed historical building - but it is advisable to check with your local planning department before work commences.
As a rule, outdoor pools or those housed in a detached building, which are exclusively for the use of the owner and their family, will be treated as permitted development and no planning consent will be required.
Building Regulations Consent will be required for any kind of indoor pool. You should also inform your local water authority that you are building a pool.

Location

Think carefully about the location of the pool - for example, it is advisable not to build too near the house or directly under trees.

If you are short on space, a counter-current unit that enables users to swim against a fast-flowing swim jet could be a viable option.

Try to imagine how the pool will look in the garden. It is advisable to talk to at least three SPATA-registered pool builders who will have a portfolio of images of pools they have designed or built.

Costs

The size and depth of your pool will determine the cost of maintaining and heating it. The larger the surface expanse of water, the more heat you will lose when the pool is not covered; the deeper the pool, the longer it will take to heat up.
Talk to the professionals about technical choices such as heating and filtration – and energy-saving heating methods and pool covers.

Added value to property?

In some cases, yes – particularly if the property is improved by the addition. But don’t assume that a £50,000 pool will add the same amount to a property price.
A poorly designed and constructed pool will do nothing to a house price.
“It could even hamper a house sale,” says Tom Holman. “It pays to go for the best that can be afforded and to use a reliable company with an excellent reputation.
“Some people buying a certain type of house will almost expect there to be a swimming pool – to them the pool is a selling factor.”

Where are pools most popular?

Once it was the south of England which had the most swimming pools – but that has altered dramatically in the last few years as the affluent North West and North East has seen a rise in people able to buy and develop bigger properties.
The average 6,000 pools built in the UK each year are from Scotland down to Cornwall and there is no concentration in any particular area.

FOWLER SWIMMING POOLS: 01403 864373
www.fowlergroup.co.uk

EDITORS:

Fowler Swimming Pools Ltd is part of a family company founded by Sussex wheelwright Stephen Fowler in 1853 in Cowfold, West Sussex, where the company is still based.

The Fowler Group includes building and construction and has a wide reputation for excellence in all its ventures. They have been involved in swimming pool construction and servicing since 1958.

The family aspect of the company is guarded with pride and John Fowler, the current chairman, is the great grandson of the founder. He was national president of SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) and South East regional chairman, a post also held later by Tom Holman – the great great grandson of founder Stephen Fowler.

Fowler Swimming Pools have carried out many projects for schools, local authorities, charities and private homes.
(www.fowlergroup.co.uk)

PRESS CONTACT:

For pictures, case studies, interviews and contacts call Mike Beardall at Oakfield Media on 01273 495619 or 07889 707807. E-mail editor@mikebeardall.com

PICTURE CREDIT: Fowler Swimming Pools of West Sussex

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