By Jake Polden
A taxpayer-funded community swimming pool has sparked outrage by hosting men and women-only sessions for alleged 'cultural reasons'.
The gender-segregated time slots came into place on July 29 and give men exclusive access to the larger 160ft, eight-lane competition pool at the Inspire Sports Village.
During these periods, women will be relegated to the smaller 65ft community pool at the sports facility in Stopsley, Luton.
The 2011 census showed a quarter of Luton's population is Muslim, up 85 per cent on 2001.
One outraged female swimmer, who did not wish to be named, said: 'The Friday night session for everyone is now closed because of the listed men-only sessions.'
'I have asked a team leader about it - as there are no managers at the weekend - and he said it was a 'cultural thing'.
'Why has one section of the community in Luton been allowed to dominate and take over the best pool in the borough?
'I like swimming in the competition pool after a hard week at work on Fridays and now I can't without any discussion and very little advanced notice.'
The gender-segregated sessions are being advertised as 'Alhamdulliah swimming' on Facebook, a Muslim phrase which thanks God for his blessings.
Posters promoting the event, which were implemented last Friday, strictly ask that 'navel to knee must be covered'.
One outraged female swimmer, who did not wish to be named, claims she was told by a team leader at the pool that the decision was down to 'cultural reasons'
The poster states 'The Strong Believers presents Men's Swimming' from 8.30pm until 9.30pm where 'kids, adults beginners and pro's all welcome'.
Classes cost £3.50 for adults where men have access to the lanes and £2.50 for children who have access to the shallow area of the pool.
The women's sessions take place later in the evening and are more expensive, starting at 9pm through to 10pm and cost £3.80 for adults, and £2.60 for children.
But women not wanting to use the community pool are reportedly being told to use other nearby swimming pools - Lea Manor or Lewsey Pools.
Another swimmer, who also wished to remain anonymous, said: 'Someone at Active Luton is behaving in an incompetent and provocative way by banning women from the best pool.
'They should be sacked, and a suitable arrangement should be found which gives everybody access to the best facilities, which they have paid for through their taxes.'
Active Luton defended the decision saying it aims to provide a service for the entire community.
A spokesman said: 'We regularly provide opportunities for different groups in our programme, including many different activities and swimming sessions.
'Active Luton aims to provide everyone in our community, regardless of age, ability or ethnicity, with affordable and accessible opportunities to get active in ways which suit their wide-ranging needs and lifestyles.'