Report of The Cabinet Member for Leisure.
A Joint meeting of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services & Culture and Visitor Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committees will consider this item on 30 November 2021, which is subsequent to the publication of the agenda for this meeting of Cabinet.
A copy of the report due for consideration at the Joint Scrutiny meeting is therefore attached to this agenda. An extract of the minutes from that meeting, confirming any recommendations, will be published in due course, prior to this meeting of Cabinet.
Purpose of report
To provide Cabinet with an opportunity to consider potential options in relation to the future of the Deepings Leisure Centre and provide a recommendation to Full Council.
1. Notes the feasibility work undertaken to establish options for leisure provision in the Deepings.
2. Recommends to Full Council approval of Option C with a budget allocation of £10.663m for leisure facilities to meet the local needs in the Deepings area, subject to meaningful community consultation and the inclusion of a financial review.
3. Recommends to Full Council that it includes the implications of the borrowing costs associated with Option C in the Medium Term Financial Strategy and further work be undertaken to ensure financial sustainability.
4. Recommends to Full Council that it requests the relevant Cabinet Member to call upon the Department for Education and the Anthem Trust to resolve the lease of Deepings Leisure Centre in order to allow LeisureSK Ltd and South Kesteven District Council representatives to reopen the Deepings Leisure Centre as soon as possible.
Alternative options considered and rejected
Full details of other options considered and rejected were set out in the report, which consisted of:
· Option A – basic refurbishment.
· Option B – basic refurbishment and enhanced gym provision.
· Option B Plus – basic refurbishment and enhanced gym provision with the addition of an enhanced entrance to the leisure centre, the accommodation of a larger studio on the first floor and the replacement of the male and female swim change areas to a changing village.
Other options considered and rejected included:
· An option which included a 50-metre pool.
· An option at an alternative site at the Landis & Gyr Building in Market Deeping.
· An option at an alternative site at Linchfield Road.
· An option for a smaller leisure facility for the Deepings.
Reason for the decision
Cabinet considered a comprehensive report which provided Members with the background relating to The Deepings Leisure Centre and options available relating to the provision of a Leisure Centre in The Deepings.
Councillor Barry Dobson, Cabinet Member for Leisure, presented the report and made the following points:
· The joint meeting of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Culture and Visitor Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee had considered this report at its meeting on 30 November 2021. Members of the two Committees were provided with the opportunity to ask questions of the consultants appointed to undertake the feasibility and design work, namely David Rushton from Sports and Leisure Consultancy and Paul Weston of Paul Weston Architects.
· An extract of the minutes from the meeting held on 30 November 2021 had been published and circulated to Cabinet, which set out in detail the aspects of the report considered by Overview and Scrutiny Members, a detailed overview of the points made at the meeting and the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s recommendations. The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee agree, unanimously to recommend to Cabinet that Full Council:
- Approves Option C with a budget allocation of £10.663m for leisure facilities to meet the local needs in the Deepings area, subject to meaningful community consultation and the inclusion of a financial review.
- Requests the relevant Cabinet Member to call upon the Department for Education and the Anthem Trust to resolve the lease of Deepings Leisure Centre in order to allow LeisureSK Ltd and South Kesteven District Council representatives to reopen the Deepings Leisure Centre as soon as possible.
· Approval of Option C would be an important first step to bring the existing Leisure Centre back into use and enable the Council to provide a facility that local people needed and deserved.
· The Proposed refurbishment and remodelling work had proven to be the best option based on evidence both in terms of current demand and projected demand for the future. It would improve the offer in the area and provide enhanced facilities which would help residents adopt healthier lifestyles.
· Investing in high quality leisure facilities across the district was a key part of the Council’s corporate ambition and a vital part of achieving this was good quality facilities which were sustainable and met customer expectations.
· This investment would need to be in considered in conjunction with the Council’s priorities and its financial position and require a review of the Authority’s spending priorities to account for the cost of borrowing.
· He, as Cabinet Member for Leisure, was resolute in trying to achieve the best possible outcome for the Deepings.
· In terms of the legal interest in the building, there was still some work to do with regard to the leasing arrangements but good progress was being made.
· Cabinet had made a promise to bring a report before a joint meeting of the Finance, Economic Development and Corporate Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Culture and Visitor Economy Overview and Scrutiny Committee prior to a meeting of Cabinet and subsequently Full Council all before Christmas, which had been delivered subject to considered of this report at the extraordinary meeting of Full Council on 14 December 2021.
· Councillor Dobson supported the recommendations of the Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee and commended Option C.
Councillor Kelham Cooke, Leader of the Council, agreed that it was important for the Leisure Centre to be reopened as soon as possible and that a simple refurbishment would not suffice. A full refurbishment and remodelling of the Deepings Leisure Centre not only sought to return the centre to its former glory but also provide a more modern complex to meet the needs of its users. Councillor Cooke said that it made sense to enhance and reconfigure the swimming pool, gym and other facilities and that the Council needed to press ahead to deliver this proposition. This was needed by a range of health and sport groups in the area, as well as for the community, and was important right now more than ever given the current circumstances.
Councillor Robert Reid, Cabinet Member for Housing and Property, reminded Cabinet of the journey that had occurred over the last couple of years in respect of leisure centres and the leisure industry generally, adding that the current circumstances represented a different scenario to that of the MACE report especially in terms of what was now considered affordable. He outlined that Cabinet had listened, it took into account the comments, views and recommendations of the Joint Scrutiny Committee, had listened to various groups as well as members of the community in the south of the district and supported Option C as the best facility which the Council could afford to deliver.
Councillor Cooke made the point that the Council was seeking to invest in its Leisure Centres, whereas there were still some Leisure Centres in other areas that had not yet re-opened following closure during lockdown due to the operational costs of running them. Other Local Authorities had cancelled their leisure plans and it was estimated that approximately 2,000 Leisure Centres may yet close altogether across the country. There was a significant private sector offer as well, but the Local Authority through the public sector was able to offer something different.
Councillor Adam Stokes, Deputy Leader of the Council, proposed an additional recommendation to Full Council to ensure that the implications of the borrowing costs associated with Option C be included in the Medium Term Financial Strategy and further work be undertaken to ensure financial sustainability.
The Leader of the Council invited contributions from other Members of the Council in attendance and the following points or questions were noted:
· There had been initial promises of a new Leisure Centre which it was hoped could have been deliverable through the Landis & Gyr, but Option C represented a much better prospect than that of earlier in the year when consideration was given to closing the Leisure Centre altogether.
· Swimming and leisure were very important to people in the area but it was not necessarily the building or centre itself that was much loved by those users of The Deepings Leisure Centre, it was having a swimming pool and other facilities that were fit for purpose that people in the area had an affection for.
· The proposition to include this investment in the Council’s Medium Term Financial Strategy was welcomed.
· What progress had been made in respect of the lease arrangements and had all relevant third parties been contacted?
· The Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee recommendation included reference to meaningful community consultation. Some of the specific design elements of the proposed refurbishment and renovations were not quite what users of the facilities in the Deepings would necessarily want so it would be beneficial for the community to be able to contribute to the debate in terms of specific design proposals. This needed to be a meaningful consultation process as faith needed to be restored within the Council’s leisure programme as many people in the south of the district felt let down.
· There were lots of knowledgeable people in the area who had a vested interest in the Deepings Leisure Centre with a substantial group having been established on social media. It would be useful if a representative from that group could participate in any discussions regarding design proposals in order that the community felt it was being represented and listened to.
Councillor Cooke confirmed that no decisions had been taken around the governance arrangements for the next stage of the proposition at this stage and that Full Council would still need to take a formal decision on the Options at its meeting on 14 December 2021. In respect of the suggestion to involve representation from a local interest group, the point was made that other people outside of the Deepings would also make use of the centre and may also be interested in participating. Further public meetings would also be held as the scheme developed.
Councillor Dobson reported that legal proceedings regarding the lease were progressing very well, and expressed confidence that necessary arrangements would be in place in the shortest timescale possible in order that the design and build stages could commence.
The Head of Leisure and Cultural Services reported that a series of meetings had been held with Lincolnshire County Council and the Anthem Trust, the latest of which took place on the 3 December 2021. Positive progress had been made and the County Council had now submitted the approval paperwork to the Department for Education to enable the leasehold arrangements. The County Council had been actively engaging with the Department for Education in order to progress the application as quickly as possible. It had been hoped that the matter would meet the criteria for an expedited process. Unfortunately, this was not the case, but the Department of Education had agreed that there did need to be a quick resolution to the matter, and would be attending a meeting with County Council representatives on 10 December 2021 to discuss this.
Councillor Reid made a closing point that the Chief Executive and two excellent officers involved in this project had already delivered a similar scheme at the OneNK Leisure Centre in North Hykeham which should give the Council every confidence that South Kesteven District Council would deliver for The Deepings Leisure Centre.