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Future of leisure centres at Leyland, Bamber Bridge and Penwortham

Written by on June 11, 2020

Sport England has been drafted in to help draw up plans for the future of leisure facilities in South Ribble.

The organisation – which helps to develop grassroots sports and promote people getting active – will provide South Ribble Borough Council with “key data” to inform the authority’s long-term programme to overhaul its leisure services.

Last year, it emerged that costs had rocketed on a blueprint for a so-called “leisure campus” which it had been intended to develop on land next to the council’s headquarters at West Paddock in Leyland.

The bill for the ambitious project – which was planned to include an eight-lane swimming pool, four-court sports hall, gym, toning studio and a suite of function rooms – leapt by almost £9m to £23.8m.

At the time, a political row broke out between the then recently-elected Labour administration and the previous Conservative cabinet over how the estimated cost had spiralled out of control.

However, a meeting of the full council ultimately voted to approve the development of a masterplan for leisure facilities in the borough – and for officers to draft “a sustainable financial solution” which would allow a new leisure campus in some form to go ahead.

Sport England’s involvement appears to be the one of the first major steps on that road, after capital funding of £19m was earmarked for a major leisure project in 2023/24, when the authority set its budget back in February.

The £12,000 cost of commissioning Sport England – an arm’s length government body – will be taken from that funding pot.

Deputy council leader and cabinet member for health and wellbeing, Mick Titherington, said that he was delighted to be working with what he described as “a fantastic organisation that shares our passions and aspirations for excellent sports and leisure facilities”.

He added:  “Besides their overwhelming experience and knowledge, they can also provide key data on the local population and their taking part in leisure activity and their use of leisure centres. No other organisation holds such data which can be used for modelling of future leisure facility needs.

“They are also a statutory consultee on planning applications affecting playing field land, so they have massive amounts of experience in determining the most appropriate areas for development and thinking about the needs of a community.

“I am really excited to work with an organisation that is so passionate about sport in this country. Our aspirations for sport and leisure in South Ribble echo what they say in their mission statement: ‘We want everyone in England regardless of their age, background or level of ability to feel able to take part in sport and physical activity’.

“We are determined to ensure that our residents have access to the best possible facilities so that they can pursue their leisure interests and make healthy lifestyle choices. Whether they are seasoned gym goers or complete newbies, let’s revolutionise health and wellbeing in South Ribble,” Cllr Titherington added.

Under the original leisure campus plan, one of the three existing leisure centres in the borough – in Leyland, Penwortham and Bamber Bridge – would have closed when the new facility opened, depending on where that modern provision was based.

The current centres are between 37 and 46 years old and are set to undergo a £2m programme of maintenance work to clear a backlog identified last year.