Leisure centres in need of urgent investment

The Local Government Association has revealed that nearly two thirds of leisure centres across England are outdated and in need of urgent new investment from government.

New Sport England figures indicate that up to 63 per cent of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old, whilst nearly a quarter of all sports halls and swimming pools have not been refurbished in more than 20 years.

Council leaders are calling on government to use the forthcoming Budget to introduce a £500 million funding pot for councils to redesign, upgrade and renovate facilities to the standard needed to support healthy, active communities and transform the nation’s health. Central government funding for leisure infrastructure reduced by a third over the last decade.

The LGA says that the upcoming 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham can help councils work with the government to prepare a legacy by getting more communities active and using leisure facilities and provide a boost to national efforts to tackle child obesity, loneliness and mental health challenges.

As well as saving the NHS money on preventative diseases, redesigning and upgrading centres would also help to meet the latest energy efficiency and environmental standards and contribute to net zero carbon targets, with swimming pools in particular requiring large amounts of energy to heat.

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “Local leisure facilities play a vital role in ensuring our communities remain healthy but too many are now in desperate need of being updated and refurbished. Council-run leisure facilities provide thousands of people and families with access to affordable gyms, swimming pools and exercise opportunities they would otherwise not have.

“Underinvestment has meant that many councils have not been able to provide the necessary refurbishments to some outdated sports facilities. Where refurbishments have been possible, they have been shown to save an average of £500,000 a year, so investment pays for itself, as well as improving the health and wellbeing of residents and helping meet our climate targets. With desperately-needed investment, councils can improve our leisure facilities and help use the upcoming Commonwealth Games to inspire our communities to become healthier and more active.”