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Improvements to leisure service

Rivermead approach
Rivermead approach

Palmer-RBC page
Palmer Park

We're investing to improve Reading's leisure facilities.

Over the next three years you can look forward to:

  • A modern new-build leisure centre at Rivermead, including a new competition standard pool;
  • A new 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park linked to the existing sports facilities;
  • Improvements to leisure centres at South Reading and Meadway.

From Spring 2020, our leisure partner Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) will operate Reading's leisure services on the Council's behalf.

This means if you are a member you can access all Council sports facilities across the Borough plus a host of other benefits.

What do I need to do now?

Please continue to use your existing membership, activity or course as usual for now.  We'll keep you updated on any changes that will affect you and talk you through anything you need to know or do.

We will be regularly updating this page or if you have any questions email new.leisure@reading.gov.uk

What improvements will there be and when will they happen?

At Reading Council, our aspiration is to provide Reading with the first-class leisure facilities a town of our size and status deserves. Working with our partners, we want to enhance Reading's reputation as a centre for sport, leisure, culture and events and to contribute to making it an even more attractive place to live, work and invest.

Within the next three years, we are investing over £40 million in modern new leisure facilities - including a new flagship leisure centre and two brand new swimming pools - delivered in partnership with our new leisure provider, Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL).

We are eagerly anticipating that by early 2022, Reading will benefit from:

A modern new-build leisure centre at Rivermead, offering:

  • A 25m 8-lane competition pool with moveable floor and 300 spectator seats;
  • A combined teaching and diving pool with moveable floor;
  • Splash Pad;
  • A 6-court sports hall with 250 spectator seats;
  • A 120-station gym with 3 studios;
  • A café/ info hub and soft play.

At Palmer Park, in addition to the refurbishment of the existing stadium building, there will be:

  • a modern new 25m 6-lane community pool;
  • a 100 station gym with 3 studios;
  • a junior activity zone/soft play facility with party rooms;
  • a new café and information hub.

By introducing a 6-lane pool at Palmer Park we will deliver the best possible facilities for Reading and the local community.

By taking the 6-lane option we can combine the benefits of a sizable pool, velodrome and athletics stadium all in one location. This would deliver a relatively unique facility in the region and put Reading firmly on the map as a top sports destination.

Reading's two other leisure centres will also benefit from an extensive programme of improvements: Meadway Sport Centre in west Reading will have a new multi-purpose studio and improved gym, and at South Reading Leisure Centre there will be new health and fitness equipment and gym space.

What benefits can I look forward to?

As well as exciting improvements to Reading's indoor and outdoor leisure facilities, residents will benefit from an impressive high-quality new service offer, which promises to be accessible, affordable and value for money. There will be a range of new activities, clubs and courses available, and the latest technology used to enhance customer's experience, such as fast pay kiosks, booking iPads, membership app and virtual classes.

When the new leisure contract with GLL starts in Spring 2020, people will be able to access membership schemes providing access to every single Council sports facility across the borough, with a free 'Reading Resident's Card' giving up to 30% discounts from activity charges and up to 50% discount for concessions.

What other benefits will there be for Reading?

We also want to inspire the communities we serve to lead healthier, more active lives, and to increase participation in sport and physical activity to improve people's well-being.

We share an ambition with GLL to increase sports and activity levels by 40% as well as a drive to improve health and wellbeing across Reading by inspiring people to lead healthier, more active lives. There will be targeted activities taking place to help reduce health inequalities, including discounts for young, older and disabled people; free disability helper access; sensory swim sessions; weight management courses, cardiac and cancer rehabilitation; falls prevention interventions and cheap off-peak swimming lessons.

There are also plans to launch a community outreach programme delivering monthly sessions in community settings such as local parks and community centres to help people into regular exercise.

Will the new facilities be environmentally friendly?

Aligning with our commitment to sustainability, energy efficiency and carbon ambitions, GLL intends to ensure all centres are operated in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The replacement leisure centre at Rivermead and the new pool at Palmer Park will be developed to BREEAM Excellent standards (which is the world's leading sustainability assessment method) and with the use of renewables where possible, as well as putting in place measures to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental efficiency.

Will the new leisure service create job opportunities?

There will be improved opportunities for local employment: GLL is committed to paying its staff Living Wage Foundation rates, offering apprenticeships and work experience placements for local young people, with a target to employ a minimum of 75% local residents from within Reading Borough.

Existing RSL staff currently working in the leisure centres will transfer over to the new operator on their existing terms and conditions.

Who are GLL?

GLL, who operate under the brand 'Better', is a non-profit charitable Social Enterprise organisation which runs over 250 sport and leisure facilities on behalf of local authorities across the UK. The leisure provider has already partnered with us in the delivery of Rivermead Leisure Complex for the past 12 years.  Find out more about them at www.better.org.uk

For this project, GLL has partnered with leading architects Saunders Boston and globally renowned Pellikaan Construction Ltd to deliver the design and build of the new facilities.

What will the Council's role be?

The Council will manage the contract and still have an overview on how the leisure centres are run. Our leisure team will closely monitor GLL's service delivery against the agreed performance standards set out in the leisure contract. GLL will be required to achieve or exceed these performance measures and will report back to us on a regular basis.

What is the benefit of GLL running the leisure service for the Council?

We want to provide new modern facilities. To minimise costs and drive the best possible value for money, both new and existing facilities will be delivered in partnership with and managed by our new leisure partner, GLL, who specialise in leisure provision. The estimated cost of a comparable Council run service would be in excess of twice the cost of working with a leisure partner with considerable leisure expertise.

By carefully considering all the options and going through a vigorous procurement process, we are confident that in awarding this contract to GLL we will secure the future of the Council's leisure facilities.  As a charitable social enterprise, GLL have no shareholders to pay.  Instead they reinvest any surplus back into improving facilities and boosting community sports participation. GLL can also claim charitable relief on their business rates liability, which the Council is unable to take advantage of under direct service provision.

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