Plans to build three new state-of-the-art leisure centres across County Durham will move a step closer next week, supporting the county’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham County Council’s Cabinet will be asked to approve three preferred sites for the new build leisure centres in Seaham, Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland, helping to regenerate local communities and improve the physical and mental health of residents.
The multi-million-pound plans are part of the council’s leisure centre transformation programme, which aims to develop more modern, innovative services in a sustainable way, better meeting the needs of residents and visitors and having a positive impact on communities.
As well as building the new leisure centres, the transformation will see facilities refreshed at the council’s current centres, making them more accessible for residents. New activities will also be introduced, encouraging more people to make active choices. This will contribute to improving the physical health and mental wellbeing of residents across the county, as well as providing long-term benefits to communities, helping everyone to live long and independent lives: one of the three strategic ambitions of the County Durham Vision for 2035.
Approving the three preferred sites will also promote further regeneration of Seaham, Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland, having a positive impact on the wider area. It will support the county’s recovery from the pandemic, while contributing to the council’s commitment to environmental sustainability and a low carbon future. It also ties in with the local authority’s Towns and Villages strategy, which aims to ensure all investments deliver the best possible outcomes for communities across the county.
The council has considered a number of factors in deciding the best locations for the new leisure centres, including technical assessments of the nine shortlisted sites, a place-based review to consider the wider benefits to communities of each location, health and equality impact assessments, as well as the views from a public consultation.
A dual site is the preferred option in Seaham, featuring a new centre at St John’s Square and improved community and outdoor facilities on the existing site. As well as helping to regenerate the town, the improved existing facilities will maximise health benefits.
At Chester-le-Street, the new leisure centre will be developed on the former Civic Centre site. This will provide ample space for development and parking, while further sport and leisure opportunities will also be explored at the Riverside site.
The preferred option in Bishop Auckland is at Tindale Crescent, supporting regeneration in that location. A proposed community hub with new facilities co-designed by local residents is planned on the existing site at Woodhouse Close, further developing social and community opportunities for the town.
Residents will be able to access the current sites during construction of the new centres, ensuring no disruption for leisure users.
Although the pandemic has impacted income in leisure centres in the short-term, usage of the centres is expected to rapidly recover once leisure centres reopen and social distancing measures are relaxed.
The wider aims of the leisure transformation programme, which will see the council’s other centres refurbished, updated and made more accessible. The introduction of new activities to reflect changing trends will further support the economic recovery of both the leisure centres and wider county.
With the cost of additional facilities, low carbon measures and the impact of inflation built in, the programme would see a £78 million investment from the council.
Cllr Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “Approving the locations of our three new state-of-the-art leisure centres marks a big step forward in our leisure transformation programme. Taking into account the wider benefits of the proposals for each location, there will be a greater impact on communities than a new centre alone could have been expected to deliver.
“By providing innovative and accessible leisure facilities, we can help to improve the physical health and mental wellbeing of all our residents, reduce the risk of long-term health conditions and help communities to come together and socialise whilst staying active. Following the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, staying healthy and active is more important than ever and I am certain these facilities will match the needs of everyone across the county.
“Furthermore, the opportunities to progress with these exciting facilities, as well as the ongoing improvements being made and planned for in our other centres, will provide much needed support to the county’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”
Cabinet will meet virtually at 9.30am on Wednesday, 17 March. The meeting can be viewed online at www.youtube.com/DurhamCouncil