New firm found to run leisure centres in Market Harborough and Lutterworth

PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER
PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER

A new contractor has been found to operate Harborough’s two main leisure centres - Market Harborough Leisure Centre and Lutterworth Sports Centre.

Subject to final details being agreed after a 10-day statutory “standstill period” the new contractor will take on both centres from April 1, 2019, for a minimum of three years.

The deal was approved by Harborough District Council’s Executive on Monday night. The name of the contractor will not be released until the deal is finally confirmed.

The Conservative-run council had been hoping that an ambitious £15.1m plan to build a new leisure centre in Market Harborough, and refurbish Lutterworth’s more modern centre would be in place by next April. That has not proved possible.

With the existing contract with Harborough District Leisure Trust, which operates the leisure centres on behalf of the council , coming to an end on March 31. 2019, a council joint chief executive had to make an urgent decision to look for a different company to run both centres for an interim period

In the meantime, Council leader Neil Bannister has commented: “If it takes a little bit more time to get the (leisure centres) decision right, we’ll do so.”

Cllr Michael Rickman said: “Act in haste, repent at leisure. Yes, it’s annoying that we’ve got a three year extension to make this decision. but in real terms three years is not long.”

And Cllr Janette Ackerley said: “The procurement of an interim contract will ensure that there is continuity of service provision.”

What the council did not want was a gap in contractors, which could have meant the temporary closure of centres.

The council is still pursuing their “once in a generation” plan for a new leisure centre for Market Harborough, the Mail understands.

Cllr Phil Knowles, Lib-Dem opposition group leader said: “A lot of time has passed since the council announced its new-build leisure centre plan. A lot of people will be asking ‘how far have we really progressed with this?’”