A COUNCIL is considering decreasing the size of a Moorlands town's swimming pool – after a review has been carried out focusing on it's leisure centres across the district. In a report conducted by a consultancy on behalf of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) it has been suggested to make a “smaller community pool and fitness offer” for the leisure services which the authority provides at South Moorlands Leisure Centre (SMLC) in Cheadle. The authority appointed FGM Consulting Limited in 2017 to review its leisure centre provision and sports facility needs, focusing on sports halls, swimming pools and other indoor provision.
A ‘Leisure Centre Options’ SMDC document states that “the purpose of undertaking the review was to inform the council on options for future provision of council leisure centres and other sports facility based services from 2019 and beyond.”
The SMDC owns three leisure centres in the area; Brough Park in Leek, Biddulph Valley in Biddulph along with South Moorlands in Cheadle.
Among many findings, it was found across all three centres that the average age of stock used in sports halls was ageing (the average age of equipment being 26 years-old), the average age of those using a swimming pool was 45 and that current gym provisions are meeting the demands of people wanting to use such facilities.
Overall, from January to October the number of visits to these centres grew from 765,812 in 2018 to 767,561 in 2019.
Within the same period of time, the number of members increased from 2,733 in 2018 to 3,027 in 2019.
The report also states that 92 per cent of customers in 2019 were ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their experience, a one per cent increase on 2018.
However, in regards to council-owned indoor leisure assets one of the key themes to come out of the report was “the need to address quality issues across all sites, but particularly South Moorlands Leisure Centre.”
The report continued: “This translates into the following investment requirements for the council: “Replacement of South Moorlands Leisure Centre with smaller community pool and fitness offer, ideally co-located with other public sector services (health/children’s services/social care, etc).”
Out of the three, South Moorlands Leisure Centre was the only venue that recorded a decrease in the number of visitors between January to October 2018 and January to October 2019.
In 2018, there were 232,890 visits to the complex from January to October but in 2019 only 231,238 visits were registered between January and October – a difference of 1,652.
In a presentation on the Annual Leisure Centre Service Report by Alex Godfrey, Regional Director at Parkwood Leisure, it said that by the end of 2019, 18 new spin bikes would have been installed, there would be decoration around the centre completed including the gym and reception areas, and dry-side changing rooms would be fully refurbished.
Further to this, in 2020 a ‘Watt Bike’ is to be installed in the gym and the flooring in the resistance side of the gym will be replaced.
Among a number of points for continual improvement for 2020, the presentation stated that it would aim to increase the use of technology to further enhance the customer experience and further reduce swimming lesson waiting lists and those wanting to learn to swim, increase overall numbers.
The report said that four aspects of future facility provision needs to be considered: “Facilities required to enable physical activity for health benefits on a mass and localised basis; Facilities required to meet educational need, particularly school swimming; Facilities required for sport, particularly sports development and sports clubs; Facilities required for disability sport, including sports development and education links.”
At the time of the study, the report said, the “indicative capital cost” for the preferred investments suggested by the report for all three leisure centres would be around £19.25 million.
The SMDC attain a contract with Parkwood Leisure for the running of all three leisure centres, a contract which is set to come to an end in March 2024.
The report author then suggested to the authority “to consider the following options (for it’s leisure centres): Providing in-house delivery; Outsourcing to an existing trust or private contractor; Establishing an alternative delivery vehicle, for example a new trust/mutual or other form of social enterprise or a wholly-owned subsidiary; providing an asset transfer; Establishing a Joint Venture.”
This report was presented to the SMDC Service Delivery Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Wednesday, November 20.
When the Times and Echo contacted the SMDC for comment, a spokesperson confirmed that the report asked members to note plans to recruit a consultant to support the further development of future options for leisure centres and added: “This is a large and detailed piece of work and we anticipate bringing a further report to councillors, including more detailed options, around this time next year.”
The spokesperson continued: “the report also highlights some potential options from some previous work which was undertaken in order to get the Council to this stage.
“Within this was the potential to move SMLC to a smaller site (footprint of the building) and potentially to decrease the pool size slightly from approximately 33 metres as this is oversized based on current installation standards and Sport England building design guidelines.”
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