PARENTS have hit out at West Oxfordshire leisure centres for banning accomplished young swimmers from going into the deep end.

GLL Nexus, which runs council leisure centres in Witney, Carterton and Chipping Norton, does not allow under-eights past the depth of 1.2 metres.

It issues the youngsters with wristbands to mark their age and indicates the deep end with a red line on each side of the pool.

The company said the rules were designed for safety, but said exceptions will now be made for competent swimmers under the age of eight, as long as they are supervised.

Witney mum Mel Cooke, 37, has been swimming lengths at Windrush Leisure Centre in Witney with her six-year-old daughter Maisie for the past two years.

She said: “It is ridiculous. It should be based on ability, not age. There are plenty of children, not just Maisie, who are able to swim in deep water.

“After the summer of sport, it is restrictive and is having a really negative impact. She was inspired by Tom Daley during the Olympics and used to have a lot of fun diving, but she cannot do that in the shallow end.”

She welcomed GLL’s decision to make exceptions to the rule, adding: “If they can filter that decision down it would be great.”

The rules were brought in by GLL, which runs the leisure centres on behalf of West Oxfordshire District Council , about three weeks ago.

GLL spokesman Kate McCann said the age of eight had been chosen because it is recognised throughout the industry as the point at which children can usually swim unsupervised.

She said: “However, while these new rules are designed for the safety of all pool users, GLL recognises that customers have valuable feedback.

“If the under eight rule is found to be too robust, it may be that exceptions can be made where overt competence is displayed.”

Richard Langridge, district council cabinet member for local economy, communities and culture, said: “Clearly safety of children and adults is a top priority, but never at the expense of common sense.”