Single-sex changing rooms are to be fully opened to the public at Bath Sports & Leisure Centre, following an alleged incident at the new ‘changing village’, in which users were ‘walking around naked’.
The mixed-sex ‘gender-neutral’ changing village was introduced at the Bath Sports & Leisure centre last year, following a £10 million refurbishment which included upgraded swimming facilities and new changing areas.
Single-sex changing areas are already available at the site on North Parade in Bath, however they were out of use to the public Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm, to cater for visiting school groups.
The issue was first brought to light on social media network Twitter, where user @BubsandJacks described seeing naked men walking around the changing village.
Just been for a swim. Swim was nice and relaxing but I wasn’t keen on the new unisex changing rooms. Men walking around naked and the single cubicles were like cages. I know it’s 2019+this is how things are now, but I felt so uncomfortable! ?
— Debz (@BubsandJacks) January 8, 2019
Other Twitter users quickly replied, saying that the unisex changing facilities would make people feel ‘uncomfortable’ and ’embarrassed and violated’.
There are plenty of unisex cubicles available at the leisure centre’s changing village, however some male visitors are allegedly using the open-plan area to change, instead of using the privacy of the cubicles.
Speaking to BBC Radio Bristol yesterday morning, Monday 14th January, local mum and leisure centre user Vicky Drew said: “For some women this is extremely uncomfortable. It’s a safety issue. Women are far more likely to be sexually assaulted in unisex facilities.
“Not everybody with their toddler would like to be confronted by men with everything out.”
During the BBC Radio Bristol breakfast show, hosted by Emma Britton, it was confirmed that Bath Sports & Leisure Centre would be opening the single-sex changing facilities, which were closed for school groups, to the public at all times, though it’s not yet known when this change will take effect.
Speaking to the Bath Echo, Twitter user Debz, who first tweeted about the issue, said: “From the responses I’ve received to my tweet, it’s clear that both men and women feel uncomfortable with the current set up, with many people saying they will no longer swim at the centre because of this.
“I’ve visited twice now. Once I saw naked men near the shower area, the other time I didn’t. That could just be a one off, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the cubicles have anti peep rails over the top, and people feel uncomfortable.
“Whilst the rails are present to stop people peeping over, this won’t stop people holding a camera over the top or under the cubicles. I didn’t expect my tweet to get the response it did, but it’s clearly an issue that’s important to people in Bath.”
In a statement to BBC Radio Bristol, GLL, the company behind Better, which runs Bath Sports & Leisure Centre, said that the new changing village was a “gender-neutral area commonly used in leisure centres across the country”.
“The safety and welfare of our customers and staff is of paramount importance and any reports of unacceptable behaviour are taken extremely seriously.
“Centre staff have not received any reports of any such behaviour.”
A spokesperson for GLL told us: “Single sex changing rooms are available at Bath Sports and Leisure Centre.
“In addition, we provide a large ‘changing village’. This is a gender neutral area where costumes are worn and privacy is provided via individual cubicles for changing.
“It is increasingly popular in leisure centres across the country as it’s easier for parents with children of the opposite sex and enables cleaners of either sex to maintain cleanliness during operational hours.
“In village change areas, customers are required to keep covered when in communal areas. There is no communal nudity in these areas.
“If any customers have concerns about these arrangements, our staff are happy to explain how they work.”