£63million approved to overhaul gyms and leisure centres
The first steps in a major overhaul of gyms and leisure centres in County Durham worth almost £63million have been approved by county chiefs.
The cash injection is expected to see new facilities built in Seaham, Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland, with more in line for refurbishments and other upgrades.
But while the investment plans have received a largely warm reception, some questions have been raised over possible implications for existing services and how they could be affected by the changes.
“I do support generally what’s being proposed, but it is clear proposals will see activities in all centres change and some may stop,” Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Mark Wilkes told a meeting of the ruling cabinet.
“Many new opportunities will be made available, but where activities end can it be confirmed if [the public] will be told where alternative provision is or will be made available?
“Where no alternative provision is to be made available, will the council look to help schools and other facilities with capacity?”
Early plans have suggested four of the county’s existing leisure centres are to be ‘refreshed’, with a further five slated for refurbishment, including Durham’s Freeman’s Quay Leisure Centre, which opened in 2008 to replace the former Durham’s City Baths.
Other centres are earmarked for a review of their current services and activities, while Seaham Leisure Centre, Chester-le-Street Leisure Centre and Bishop Auckland’s Woodhouse Close Leisure Complex are in line for replacements.
Council leaders have admitted plans lack detail at the moment, but said more would become available as work on the proposals progressed.
“This is the first step in modernising leisure facilities to give more choice to local residents,” said Coun Carl Marshall, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration.
“We’ve had support from leading experts, but we’re also conscious this only gets us so far, but this confirms the headlines and then we will be able to work with local people to work on the types of facilities we need.”
He added the plans represented a ‘once in a lifetime investment programme’.
Cabinet members approved a £62.8million budget for the scheme, which is expected to create more than 30 jobs in the county.