A review of sports centres in Brighton and Hove will include four outdoor paddling pools after a plea from newly elected councillors.
The review will help councillors and officials to decide who runs the seven indoor sports centres and the four paddling pools.
And it will inform decisions about where money is spent on upgrades and makeovers – and how much – in the coming years.
All seven sports centres and the paddling pools are run by Freedom Leisure, a not-for-profit leisure trust, on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council.
The 10-year contract expires at the end of March 2021 although it could be extended for five years.
A report to the council’s Tourism, Development and Culture Committee said: “Freedom Leisure have not been able to achieve their predicted financial targets during the course of the current contract.
“Consequently it is likely there would be a financial pressure on the council if the existing arrangements were continued.”
Decisions about what happens next are unlikely to be made until the review has been completed.
But when the committee discussed the report at Hove Town Hall yesterday (Thursday 20 June), councillors were keen to ensure that paddling pools would not be forgotten.
Newly elected Green councillor Marianna Ebel was concerned that the terms of the review appeared to overlook the paddling pools and asked for them to be specifically included.
She said: “We strongly believe paddling pools must be included. It is important to keep all 11 facilities open as sports facilities help increase the health and wellbeing of users.”
She added that low-income families in particular benefited from the free paddling pools.
Another new councillor Amanda Grimshaw agreed, saying: “In these times of austerity, to be able to walk as a parent with children and spend time sitting in the sunshine with other parents, is a great experience.”
The Labour councillor added: “I hope we can focus on support for young families and people in need.”
Another Labour councillor, Alan Robins, who chairs the committee, added his support and said: “I am always surprised at the fortitude of the young children splashing about when they first open at Easter.”
Conservative councillor Robert Nemeth asked why the paddling pools did not appear to be included in the scope of the review.
The council’s head of sport and leisure Ian Shurrock said that the phrase “indoor sports facilities” was used so that there would be no confusion with, say, football pitches.
He was happy to include paddling pools in the review which would include condition surveys and cost estimates for improvement works.
Conservative councillor Mary Mears asked whether the work might include the Saltdean Lido but was told that this was run by a community interest company (CIC) rather than Freedom Leisure.
The review would look at the sports centres operated by Freedom Leisure. They are
- the King Alfred Leisure Centre and Kingsway Multiplay
- Moulsecoomb Community Leisure Centre
- Portslade Sports Centre
- the Prince Regent Swimming Complex including the old slipper baths
- Stanley Deason Leisure Centre
- St Luke’s Community Swimming Pool
- the Withdean Sports Complex
The paddling pools include the water feature at The Level as well as Hove Lagoon, Saunders Park and the seafront paddling pool in King’s Road.
The report to councillors said that neighbouring councils had “continued to develop sports facilities over the last 20 years”.
It said: “For example, major new sports facilities have been provided in Horsham (Pavilions in the Park, the Bridge), Worthing (Splashpoint), Burgess Hill (the Triangle) and Crawley (K2).
“Brighton and Hove has (with the exception of the extension of the Withdean Sports Complex) not undertaken any major new developments for many years.
“Positive progress has been made in the delivery of a number of successful smaller site improvements in the city.
“These include the King Alfred gym and wet changing rooms, Stanley Deason Leisure Centre 3G all-weather pitch, St Luke’s wet changing rooms and roof renovation and Withdean Sport Centre track replacement.
“However, the delivery of a new, large multipurpose facility remains a priority. This is necessary to ensure the provision in Brighton and Hove is comparable with neighbouring authorities and meets the needs and expectations of residents.
“It is proposed that such a facility will be delivered by the new King Alfred Leisure Centre.
“However, even if a new King Alfred is achieved, there will still be a need to improve the portfolio of other sports facilities that are included within the sports facilities contract.
“The most recent new sports centre within the sports facilities contract is Moulsecoomb Community Leisure Centre which opened in January 1991.
“St Luke’s Community Swimming Pool is over 115 years old and the original part of the King Alfred Leisure Centre opened in 1938.
“As a consequence it is important that full condition surveys are undertaken of the facilities to understand the expected lifespan and lifecycle costs of each facility.
“This would enable an investment plan to be developed which will give the priorities for investment across the portfolio.
“Furthermore, the investment plan would enable a considered view to be taken on the future of the facilities as a whole.”
Green councillor Tom Druitt asked about progress on the major project planned on the site of the King Alfred on Hove seafront.
The council and its preferred partner, the housebuilder Crest Nicholson, were due to sign a £250 million development agreement to build a new swimming pool, sports centre and hundreds of flats.
But Crest Nicholson, which is working on its plans in partnership with the Hove-based Starr Trust, said that it was concerned about the uncertainty created by Brexit – Britain’s departure from the European Union (EU).
Councillors have set deadlines, including one at the end of March, to sign the agreement but even the latest deadline has been missed, the committee was told.
Officials are expected to provide a full update to councillors next month.