Project to transform leisure provision gets underway

Better leisure facilities for Ashford are now a step closer as Ashford Borough Council (ABC) and Ashford Leisure Trust (ALT) start the search for a new leisure operator.

ABC and ALT are working together to transform the way leisure is provided by procuring a new leisure operator for all the main leisure facilities in the Ashford area. The new partnership with an external operator will enable significant investment in leisure provision to meet the needs of Ashford’s growing population.

The new arrangements will see the remodelling of the ‘dry side’ of the Stour Centre, bringing the facilities there up to the standard on the ‘pool’ side, remodelled in 2007. The facilities at the Julie Rose Stadium will also be improved.

On Thursday, March 8th, Ashford Borough Council’s Cabinet received an update on the procurement process and endorsed the plans.

A detailed specification has been drawn up and the partnership will be going to market shortly to seek expressions of interest from potential partners. The appointment of a new operating partner is expected towards the beginning of 2019 and, following a transition period, they will take over full management of all the facilities in May 2019.

On behalf of the ALT Trustees, Charlie Vavasour said:

“We have joined with ABC to form this partnership as the best way to secure major investment and to ensure the best possible range of leisure opportunities for residents in the future.

“One of our key priorities is to promote health and wellbeing by enabling and encouraging more people to participate in active leisure opportunities. We hope to enhance our ability to achieve this goal by working with an experienced operator who can bring expertise and financial capacity to improve the town’s facilities.”

Stour Centre new leisure centre

The new leisure operator will manage the day-to-day running of the Stour Centre, Julie Rose Stadium, Conningbrook Lakes and other leisure sites owned by the Council including Spearpoint Recreation Ground pavilion, football pitches and tennis courts.

ALT’s role will change from day to day operational management of the Stour Centre and Julie Rose Stadium to a wider strategic role, overseeing the way in which all the sites are operated, monitoring the contract and focussing on increasing rates of participation and further developing the community, health and wellbeing outreach programme it currently offers.

Cllr Gerald White from Ashford Borough Council said:

“As the borough continues to grow, we feel passionately that our leisure offer must evolve to meet demand and expectation. Both ourselves and Ashford Leisure Trust believe this is the absolutely the right step to take to future-proof the provision of first-rate leisure facilities across the borough.

“The emphasis here is on partnership working, and we will proceed together to promote active recreation and healthy lifestyles and enhance the leisure offer for our residents.”

During this period it is very much business as usual at the town’s leisure sites, with no impact on services or customers.