Date Published: 18 November 2021
Rutland County Council’s Cabinet has met to discuss issues relating to future leisure provision in Rutland and approved measures intended to secure a range of viable long-term leisure options for local residents.
Earlier this year, the Council began an extensive leisure needs assessment to examine the nature of current leisure provision in Rutland, and what leisure opportunities are needed to support the health and well-being of future generations.
While the overall health of Rutland’s population is better than the national average, there are significant underlying health issues and increasing levels of inactivity locally. The Council’s leisure needs assessment recognises that access to leisure and well-being provision plays an important role in helping people to live healthy, active lifestyles.
The challenge for local councils across the UK is how to support access to leisure provision following the devastating impact that COVID-19 has had on traditional leisure services. Councils themselves are also under huge financial pressure due to the pandemic and big reductions in the funding they receive from Central Government.
Rutland County Council has been further constrained because the planned end of its current leisure contract with Stevenage Leisure Ltd (the operators of Catmose Sports Centre in Oakham) coincided with the height of the COVID pandemic in March 2021. This has meant that normal investment in local leisure facilities as a result of a new long-term leisure contract has not been possible.
In order to maintain services the contract was extended by Cabinet approval to 31 March 2023. However, Stevenage Leisure experienced a significant loss of income due to COVID lockdowns and the enforced closure of Catmose Swimming Pool because of safety issues.
Rutland County Council’s Cabinet met on Tuesday 16 November to consider a range of options to meet the future leisure and well-being needs of local communities. Following careful consideration of all the available options, Cabinet approved the commencement of a new project to look at opportunities for county-wide leisure provision in partnership with the Rutland Local Sports Alliance.
Cabinet also approved the development of plans for a swimming pool with or without dry leisure facilities at a new site. The plans will be developed to an initial design stage only, in order to build a viable case for a new pool in Rutland, noting that progress beyond this point can only take place when at least 90% of the capital funding needed to build the pool becomes available from external sources, and if the new provision can be delivered with no ongoing running costs to the Council.
A sum of £250,000 of Section 106 developer funding will be set aside to provide recreation, sport and leisure infrastructure to a Swimming Provision Project, as match funding towards future provision and investment in facilities. Further repair to the existing Catmose swimming pool, which has reached its end of life, is not affordable and the pool will not be re-opened. However, the other public facilities at Catmose Sports will continue to operate as they have since restrictions eased.
“Making sure people can access affordable leisure and wellbeing provision is key to Rutland having a healthy, active population. However, it isn’t necessarily the case that the way leisure has been provided in the past is still the best, or only, way to achieve this. Given the changes that have been forced on everyone by the pandemic, and the immense financial pressure facing Councils and leisure providers, we need to think differently about how we provide access to leisure in the future. Following a thorough assessment of Rutland’s current leisure provision – including the demand for public access to swimming and the condition of Catmose Swimming Pool – the Council is going to explore opportunities for county-wide leisure provision in partnership with Rutland’s Local Sports Alliance, while also developing designs for a new swimming pool somewhere in the county. We will only be able to move beyond the design stage for a new pool if the majority of money needed to build it can be sourced externally. However, it is clear that spending huge amounts of money to repair Catmose Swimming Pool would not be a good use of public funds. As a result, Catmose pool will not reopen.” Cllr Lucy Stephenson, Cabinet Member for Leisure at Rutland County Council
The Leisure Options report (Report No: 161/2021) presented at Cabinet on Tuesday 16 November 2021 can be read in full online at: www.rutland.gov.uk/meetings. Minutes from the meeting will be published with 10 days of the meeting date.