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Sites recommended for new Bishop Auckland and Chester-le-Street leisure centres

Published September 21, 2021 4.54pm

Councillors in County Durham will be asked to agree the final locations for two new leisure centres next week - while also receiving a progress update on a full programme of improvements to begin next year.

The new leisure facilities for Chester-le-Street and Bishop Auckland are being proposed as part of our £78 million Leisure Transformation Plan.

Residents and users will have a chance to discuss the plan further when a leisure conversation programme begins next month.

An update on the plan, which will be presented to the council's Cabinet on Wednesday, 29 September, also recommends that further investigation work is undertaken before the final location for a new leisure centre in Seaham is agreed.

Bishop Auckland

A report on the Leisure Transformation programme presented to Cabinet in March 2021, identified two potential sites for a new leisure centre at Bishop Auckland - the current Woodhouse Close site and Tindale Crescent. Tindale Crescent was selected as the preferred option with the caveat that further due diligence was needed on a number of factors that would impact on delivery of the new venues.

However, following further work on a number of areas, including plans to develop a new community hub, the feasibility study has shown that the site of the existing leisure centre at Woodhouse Close is a more viable option.

This option would also be more cost-effective as the development of two separate sites could add between £5m to £7m to the original overall programme cost, which could, in turn, impact on the amount of VAT the council has to pay.

Cabinet is, therefore, being asked to agree to a new leisure centre with integral community hub facilities being built at Woodhouse Close.

Chester-le-Street and Seaham

Further investigation of the proposed location for new leisure facilities in Chester-le-Street found no significant issues that could not be mitigated against. As a result, Cabinet members are being asked to give final approval to the preferred site of the former civic centre.

A hybrid approach to the provision of facilities in Seaham was put forward in the original Leisure Transformation Plan, with a new leisure centre proposed at St John's Square alongside further provision at the existing site.

Work carried out since the initial report found that issues identified for further investigation have not yet been satisfactorily resolved and, as a result, Cabinet will be asked to allow extra time for further due diligence work to be carried out. 

The leisure transformation programme aims to make a difference for leisure centre users across the county and Cabinet members are also asked to approve proposals of £19.3m of wider improvements to existing leisure facilities, with the majority of this work set to begin next year.

New facilities across the county

The report also provides an update on proposals to carry out £19.3 million worth of refurbishments at the council's 12 other leisure facilities. This includes proposals for new soft play, adventure play and ten-pin bowling facilities at Peterlee along with improved opportunities for group exercise; better links to the town centre as well as new soft play and water play facilities in the pool at Spennymoor; behind the scenes pool improvements and a new wellness suite at Teesdale to support people recovering from injuries or starting out on their fitness journey.

These proposals will be further outlined in the leisure conversation due to begin in October. This would see a range of events and activities where residents and leisure centre users will be given updates on the project as well as the opportunity to provide their views on leisure facilities in their community.

Large-scale investment

Cllr James Rowlandson, Cabinet member for resources, investments and assets, said: "The leisure transformation plan presents a fantastic opportunity to make a significant investment in leisure facilities across the county and in the health and wellbeing of residents. And, crucially, work is set to begin early next year.

"These are large-scale investments for the council, and it is, therefore, only right that due diligence work is carried out to ensure the chosen site for each development is the most viable.

"The work carried out to date has shown that while the initial recommendation to locate the new Chester-le-Street leisure centre on the site of the former civic centre is sound, there are a number of issues that we have not been able to resolve with regard to the proposed Tindale Crescent site in Bishop Auckland.

"Our assessments in March showed Woodhouse Close would be a viable location for the new leisure centre and the recommendation for Tindale Crescent was a marginal decision. Now that further research has taken place, it has become apparent that co-locating and combining the new leisure centre with the proposed community hub is a much better option, particularly with regard to supporting the wider local community.

"Furthermore, it is also clear that we need to spend more time looking at the potential issues around the proposed St John's Square site in Seaham. It is important that we take time to ensure that we make the correct decision when making such a significant investment in facilities for the public."

At this stage, it is hoped that the majority of the work will commence next year and will be accompanied by further engagement with local communities through the leisure conversation phase.

Read the full report.