£3.5m funding boost for leisure facilities in Somerset towns

Over £ 3.5million will be invested in recreational facilities in Chard, Wincanton and Yeovil over the next 15 years.

The South Somerset County Council announced in mid-February that the nonprofit Freedom Leisure would start managing its swimming pools and leisure centers on April 1st.

The non-profit trust, which is replacing LED Leisure, will be responsible for running the Goldenstones Leisure Center and Westlands Sports & Fitness Center in Yeovil and the Wincanton Sports Center and the new pool and leisure center in Chard.

The Council has now confirmed that after the centers reopen on Monday 12 April, more than £ 3.5 million will be poured into these facilities to make “changes and improvements”.

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Lynda Pincombe, the Council’s Strategic Planning Specialist, said, “We are excited to be working with Freedom Leisure over the term and look forward to investing in facilities across South Somerset that will benefit and enable our communities to be healthy and have access to exceptional cultural and leisure activities. “

Freedom Leisure, based in East Hoathly, East Sussex, currently manages more than 100 leisure facilities across the UK, including five in and around the New Forest National Park.

Goldenstones swimming pool in Yeovil

Managing Director Ivan Horsfall Turner said, “Together with the South Somerset District Council, we want to continue to promote a happy, healthy community so that more people can be more active.”

The council had previously committed in February 2019 to upgrade its two existing pools worth more than £ 900,000 over a five-year period as part of its capital program.

Many of these upgrades – like replacing the pumps and boilers, tiling around the pool, and improving ventilation in Wincanton’s locker rooms – have been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Council has not provided a detailed breakdown of where and when the £ 3.5million will be spent or how much of the work will consist of new projects instead of previously agreed maintenance.

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However, it has been confirmed that the costs will be shared between the Council and Freedom Leisure.

A spokesman said: “Improvements to community facilities include expanded gyms and studios, new fitness equipment, and some renovations.

“The centers will also benefit from energy saving work to improve efficiency and reduce the building’s carbon footprint.

“The £ 3.5 million is a joint investment by the Council and Freedom Leisure. Part of this investment (partially) still needs to be approved later.

Chard's new swimming pool is being tested

Chard’s new swimming pool is being tested

“Part of the investment will be required to replace or improve machinery and equipment, which would have been necessary regardless of who signed the contract.”

The new swimming pool and leisure center in Chard should be operational by March 2022 at the latest.

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