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New opportunities for cost effective leisure infrastructure

Paul Cluett, Managing Director at Alliance Leisure highlights how it’s possible to breathe new life into leisure provision without necessarily committing to large scale capital investment. 

We know that investing in our leisure infrastructure is key to creating more active communities and transforming the health of the nation. We also know that money in the public sector is extremely tight; in some cases non-existent as councils are forced to direct resources away from leisure and into frontline services such as social care.  Despite these financial constraints, we have seen the investment of millions of pounds into public sector sports and leisure centres over the last 12 months, thanks to the UK Leisure Framework.  

The Framework was launched by Denbighshire County Council in February 2017 following the success of the council’s first partnership with Alliance Leisure, which saw the investment of almost £10m in upgrading tired and underperforming leisure facilities after years of under investment. Keen to help other public sector bodies to transform their leisure offer with successful and sustainable facilities, the council developed the UK Leisure Framework, which is EU Procurement Regulations compliant, and appointed Alliance Leisure as the leisure development partner. 

The Framework removes the burdens of public procurement by significantly reducing the process and ensuring projects are delivered on time and on budget whilst fully complying with the Procurement Regulations. We at Alliance Leisure are very proud to be working with local authorities and leisure trusts across the UK to reinvigorate their services with innovative projects that meet the demands of communities, achieve income targets and meet local outcomes

Developments with an estimated value of £27m have been signed in the first 12 months of the Framework. Five leisure projects have completed with another six developments currently on site.

Facilitating projects of all sizes

The projects are wide-ranging, from as little as £250,000 up to £15m. They include the completion of new 3G pitches at St Asaph Leisure Centre, the first development to be completed under the UK Leisure Framework.  Completed on-time and under-budget, the £250,000 investment provides the local school with first-class facilities that can be used by all of the community.

The Framework has also facilitated the redevelopment of Rhyl Leisure Centre following an investment of £850,000. The first phase of work, which encompassed the refurbishment of the swimming pool changing rooms, completed in summer 2017. Phase two includes the refurbishment of the gym, the conversion of an unused drama studio into the largest, dedicated functional training space in the area and a brand new group cycling studio. A high quality dedicated changing area for members will also be introduced.

Other projects include a £7.4m scheme to refurbish and extend Monmouth Leisure Centre andSC2 Rhyl, a £14.8m new leisure complex offering a 13,000sq ft leisure pool with flumes, slides and water play features, a TAG active adventure zone, changing village and café and bar area, which is expected to attract more than 350,000 extra visitors per year to the area. 

And in the last two months, further projects have commenced on site including a £2.4m investment by Cheltenham Borough Council in partnership with Cheltenham Borough Council and The Cheltenham Trust, a £2m redevelopment project with South Norfolk District Council and a £1.4m health and fitness development with Flintshire County Council in partnership with Aura Trust.

Hope in an era of hardship

These examples will give you an idea of the scope of works being realised under the UK Leisure Framework. By focusing on reducing costs and improving efficiencies for both the client and the contractor, the Framework ensures that a larger percentage of the client’s overall budget is allocated to the development project, rather than the procurement process. This allows local authorities to progress developments that almost certainly would have proved prohibitively expensive under traditional public procurement procedures. 

In an era of financial austerity, it allows local authorities to progress projects with confidence knowing they are developing innovative solutions that will prove popular with the public and will meet their financial targets. More importantly, the Framework enables local authorities to move beyond a culture of ‘make do and mend’ and to deliver leisure infrastructure that’s fit for purpose and that will help to turn the tide of the physical inactivity epidemic that is engulfing our nation.