Multi-million pound ‘once in a generation’ plans for leisure centres

General view of Market Harborough leisure centre. ENGNNL00120130129160519
General view of Market Harborough leisure centre. ENGNNL00120130129160519

Harborough District Council is investigating plans to build a “once in a generation” new leisure centre in Market Harborough, and refurbish Lutterworth Leisure Centre, at a total cost of £15.1million.

The new-build scheme is the preferred option of several leisure choices on the table, to be discussed in public for the first time by the council’s executive on Monday, May 15.

The new leisure centre could be on the site of the current leisure centre off Northampton Road - or it could be on a new site to the north of the town, perhaps in the Airfield Farm area. In that case, the present leisure centre site could be sold off for industry or housing, the Mail understands.

Cllr Phil King, the council’s deputy leader, said: “This is an ambitious project for the council - a once in a generation thing.

“But there’s still a lot of discussion to be had. Nothing’s ruled in and nothing’s ruled out.”

The district council is hoping that its final choice of leisure centre plan will be in place by April 2019.

That’s when the current 15-year contract with SERCO Leisure - which currently runs Market Harborough and Lutterworth Leisure Centres on behalf of the council - runs out.

A leisure company could then be asked by the district council to DBOM (design, build, operate and manage) Harborough’s new-look leisure centre offering - the new centre in Market Harborough and the refurbished one in Lutterworth.

Lutterworth Sports Centre was built in 2005 and is, generally, in good condition and meets the needs of the population, a report to the council’s executive says.

But Market Harborough Leisure Centre was built in 1990, and - says the council report - “does not currently meet modern standards”.

A new Market Harborough leisure centre would include new swimming facilities, a gym and a sports hall, Cllr King confirmed. It could lead to an increase in income of 45 per cent.

But the future of an indoor bowls hall is more uncertain. The current one has only six per cent utilisation, and is subsidised by other leisure centre users to the tune of £30,000 a year, the council report says.

Underlying all the potential changes is the council’s role in promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles, explained Cllr King, via a Physical Activity Strategy.

Cllr King added that there would be plenty of opportunities for the public and interested bodies to comment on the council’s leisure plans as they developed through the year.

“We’re looking forward” he said. “It’s about the future needs of our expanding population.”

And he said there were currently no plans to increase council tax bills to pay for the new leisure centre developments.

Liberal Democrat group leader on the district council, Cllr Phil Knowles, said he was “very much looking forward to seeing the finer details of the proposal on the leisure centres”.

The council says it has four main options for the two centres:

(1) Do nothing - just repair the two leisure centres as required. Estimated cost £2million.

(2) Refurbishment - including expanding the health and fitness facilities at Market Harborough and re-designing the foyer and “central core” at Lutterworth, to include soft play and ‘clip ‘n’ climb’ areas. Estimated cost £6.4million.

(3) Major refurbishment - part new build (health and fitness) and refurbishment at Market Harborough and changes in the use of the foyer and central core at Lutterworth. Estimated cost £8.5million.

(4) New build - The current favourite: a new leisure centre at Market Harborough and changes in the use of the foyer and central core at Lutterworth. Estimated cost £15.1million.