The landscape of leisure in Durham is set to change, following the approval by Durham County Council, of a significant £62.8 million investment programme to transform services across the County.
Working in close consultation with leisure development specialist, Alliance Leisure through the UK Leisure Framework, proposals were submitted and approved by Cabinet last month (January), paving the way for an ambitious transformation programme to bring provision in line with the needs of a modern day community.
As part of the plans, outdated facilities in Seaham, Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland are proposed to be replaced by new, vibrant multi-facility provisions, with modernisation proposals also approved at several other leisure facilities across the County. In addition, facility provision and programming across Durham will undergo a full review with a host of exciting innovations tipped for inclusion.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Cabinet Member for Economic Regeneration, says: “We have already been very successful in introducing pioneering new ways to get active at our leisure centres. It’s important that we build on this by continuing to follow changing tastes and trends in the leisure industry if we are to increase participation in physical activity in the county and provide people with the type of services they want.”
James Foley, Commercial Director at Alliance Leisure says: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with the Council. This investment approval follows extensive consultation and evaluation between us, the Council and stakeholders.”
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul leisure provision across an entire county and to get it right. Using our experience of developing innovative leisure facilities in tandem with sound business planning, we will assist the Council to deliver exciting and sustainable facilities and services that meet the needs of the people in County Durham“.
Nigel Dodds, Strategic Manager for Leisure at the Council, says: “An active community is a healthy community. We want to make sure we create inspiring, active environments that provide facilities and programmes offering something for everyone.”
Before finalising any plans for its leisure centres, the council will work with residents and centre users to decide how services should look.
In response to the news, Charles Johnson, Property Director for Sport England notes: “It is good to see that Durham recognises the worth of investing in their infrastructure as a way to get people to become more physically active, recognising the positive impact the right facilities in the right place have on people’s lives. We look forward to engaging with Alliance and Durham County Council in developing the detail behind these proposals.”
Following approval by South Somerset District Council in September, works are finally underway on the regeneration of Chard, Somerset.Demolition of existing buildings on the industrial site at Boden Mill in the town centre began this month in preparation for the construction of a modern leisure centre housing a gym, a 25 metre swimming pool, exercise studios, adventure play facility and a café.
Alliance Leisure has been appointed to manage the project under the UK Leisure Framework, and will work alongside building contractor Speller Metcalfe, plus architecture and building consultancy practice AHR.
Julia Goddard, Senior Business Development Manager at Alliance Leisure, says: “The construction of a leisure centre is the direct result of a number of public consultations. It is fantastic to finally see the bulldozers on site, marking the beginning of a project that will reinvigorate this under-utilised part of the town and encourage a more active, healthy and happy community.”
In addition to the leisure centre, approval has also been granted for the conversion and extension of an existing building to create a new library and community hub. Future phases of the development include proposals for housing, commercial units and public realm improvements.
Speaking about the development, Alex Parmley, Chief Executive and Sponsor of the Chard Regeneration Scheme, says: “The Boden Mill site has been derelict for many years and bringing it back in to use is an essential part of moving the town forward. With the regeneration of the site taking place over the coming years, this scheme will help to bring more footfall to the town centre, increase the vitality and help to boost businesses locally.”
Demolition works are expected to complete by Spring 2020. Phase 1 works to construct the new leisure centre will then get underway and are expected to complete by summer 2021.
Following a £1.4 million investment in a new visitor centre, function room and café, Carmarthenshire County Council is celebrating a bumper summer at Pembrey Country Park.
“Pembrey Country Park has always been one of Wales’ top visitor attractions but this summer has been extraordinary in terms of the number of visitors and income generated,” explains Neil Thomas Senior Outdoor Recreation Manager. “Over the summer holidays we have experienced a 10 per cent increase in footfall and a 15 per cent uplift in revenue on last year. There is little doubt that our success is due to the improvements we have made to our facilities.
“The natural beauty of the park, with its 500 acres of woodland and eight miles of golden sands has always attracted visitors but we felt we were not supporting the natural beauty with fit for purpose amenities. For example, we offered limited on site catering provision, in particular for the large numbers of guests staying on our caravan site. We were missing a trick from a customer experience and revenue generation point of venue.”
In 2017, Carmarthenshire County Council tasked Alliance Leisure, via the UK Leisure Framework, to design and build a 400 square foot visitor centre, function room and café. Works got underway in February and were completed in 21 weeks, ready for the summer season.
Neil Thomas, adds: “We took the decision to manage the café in house rather than rent the space to a third party. This has been a great decision. During July and August we served more than 50,000 customers.
“The function room has also been popular. So far, we have hosted children’s parties, corporate events and even have our first wedding booked for 2020. The space occupies 60 square feet and is extremely versatile, offering direct access to outside, the café and the restrooms.
Gillian Dunster, Business Development Manager at Alliance Leisure, says: “Our brief was to design and build facilities which would enhance the member experience and provide opportunities to generate new incomes, creating a sustainable future for the Park.
“The first two months of operation suggest that working in close partnership with the council, we have delivered on both counts. Pembrey County Park is an area of natural beauty and now provides visitors with the infra structure they need to fully enjoy all the activities on offer from dry slope skiing and crazy golf to adventure play, horse riding, camping and nature trails.”