Council run leisure centres to be rebuilt and upgraded

LEISURE facilities across the county are to receive a huge investment boost to rebuild and upgrade.

In January 2020, Durham County Council agreed in principle to invest in improving leisure centres.

The council has started to identify the types of facilities and activities which have the most impact and be the most cost effective and economical to deliver.

It has also looked at current levels of use, leisure market trends, demographic data, leisure sector and health research as well as a range of other factors to ensure the proposals will have the greatest possible impact.

In some cases, the council is improving or updating existing facilities.

However, in the case of those facilities in Seaham, Bishop Auckland and Chester-le-Street, they have found it more financially viable to build new centres.

For the new site at Bishop Auckland, three sites have been put forward – including the existing site on Woodhouse Lane.

The other options include the land next to Bishop Auckland football Club in Tindale Crescent, or at the Bishop Auckland College site.

The proposed sites for Chester-le-Street’s new leisure centre include the existing site on Burns Green.

The other two options include the site of the former civic centre, and the land next to Riverside Park.

The proposed sites for Seaham’s new facility include the existing site on Dalton Avenue, The Dock Top, or St John’s Square.

There are also plans to upgrade the facilities at Spennymoor’s leisure pool.

Durham County Council’s cabinet member for economic regeneration, Carl Marshall, said: “By replacing three centres with brand new buildings and improving facilities in many others, this capital investment will make a huge difference for members across the county, who already make four million visits a year, while attracting many more users to enjoy the modernised facilities and programmes.

“As a council we place a huge importance on people’s health and wellbeing, as well as supporting the regeneration of local towns to serve its communities, which is why we are progressing with this investment.

“This particular programme focusses on our existing leisure centres with investment to make sure they are fit for purpose for residents.”

“The budget for this project must take into account the amount of revenue our centres can generate in order to support the money spent on the buildings and keep our facilities running. We also have to recognise that in our response to the coronavirus pandemic there has been a real pressure on the council’s budgets. We want to create sustainable facilities that meet our county’s needs while generating enough income to keep this valuable service available to residents as we recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.

Joy Allen, Mayor of Bishop Auckland Town Council said “Councillors wholeheartedly welcomed Durham County Councils proposal to build a brand new purpose built leisure centre.

“They acknowledged the health and well-being benefits this new development would bring when leisure transformation plans were discussed at the town council meeting earlier this week.

“There was strong opposition to the alternative site options, particularly moving the new facilities further out of town.”

The council hopes to finalise its plans at a cabinet meeting in early 2021.

After that, a firmer plan for the initiative will be developed and more consultation on the specifics of the proposals will follow, where there will be a clearer idea on timescales.

Building work should also start in early 2021.

The survey can be accessed at: durhamleisuretransformation.co.uk/survey/

The consultation period ends on Sunday, December 6.

The Northern Echo | Durham