Amber Valley Borough Council has won an £180k funding bid to provide a much-needed lifeline for Belper Leisure Centre, which had been at grave risk of closure.
The council’s new Labour administration pushed for grant support from Sport England’s Swimming Pool Support Fund (SPSF) earlier this summer after a private non-profit organisation, Trilogy Active Ltd, stepped in to prevent the imminent closure of Belper Leisure Centre.
Sport England has now approved the council’s application and has allocated £180,930 towards the leisure centre’s revenue costs, which include things like utility bills and pool chemicals.
It represents a significant cash injection for the privately run sports centre, which was facing a closure-threatening £360k deficit just a few months ago before Trilogy Active took over.
The £180k Sport England grant, which comes from a nationwide £20m 'Phase 1' SPSF pot, is in addition to the £150k already pledged to the centre this financial year by Amber Valley Borough Council.
The council is also applying for up to £1m in capital funding from Phase 2 of Sport England’s SPSF programme to be shared equally between the borough’s four leisure centres, three of which – in Heanor, Alfreton and Ripley – are council run.
If successful, Belper could therefore receive up to a further £250k to spend on energy-saving investments.
Councillor Chris Emmas-Williams, who became the new leader of Amber Valley Borough Council in May and has spearheaded the drive to save Belper Leisure Centre, said: "I am absolutely over the moon to be able to report that Sport England has approved the council’s funding application in full.
"Although we were working hard to find alternative ways to support Trilogy Active in the event this application failed - including our agreement to provide £150k in council funding - Sport England’s allocation really does give the team at Belper Leisure Centre a superb chance of turning its fortunes around.
"I’m delighted for the people of Belper and surrounding areas, not least the pupils at Belper School, the clubs that use the centre and members of the general public, who can now look forward to a more certain future for this popular sports facility."
The Swimming Pool Support Fund was announced in the Chancellor’s Spring Budget earlier this year. Funding is being released in two phases:
An initial £20m of revenue funding is currently being allocated, while a further £60m will shortly be available for local authorities across the UK to bid for, for energy-saving capital expenditures like the installation of photovoltaic panels.
John Fletcher, managing director of Belper Leisure Centre’s new guardian Trilogy Active, said: “This is very positive news indeed for Belper Leisure Centre and the community of Belper.
"The decision by Sport England not only secures the short-term future of the site, it enables us to fast-track positive change, investment and development at the centre.
"I’d like to thank Amber Valley Borough Council, not just for the support with this application, but for the overall support and understanding in general with the transition of Belper Leisure Centre. Without the council’s support and vision, I don’t think the agreement and new approach at the site would have been possible."
Mr Fletcher added: "It’s still early days, and the site is not yet financially secure, but the future is bright for this important community facility."
Sport England's Director of Place, Lisa Dodd-Mayne, said: "We know just how vital swimming pools and leisure centres are to our nation’s activity levels, which is why Sport England is proud to have played a central role in the delivery of this fund.
"Many pools have faced a real and significant threat to their survival this year, as local authorities and operators battle the challenge of increased energy and maintenance costs, weakened reserves and difficulties with retaining staff.
"Today’s announcement is an important moment in time, but is by no means the end of the work facing us or the support available as we continue to work with our partners to ensure the long-term viability of these vital community resources."
Pictured - Rachael Vickers, Belper Leisure Centre Manager, and the Amber Valley Borough Council Leader, Chris Emmas-Williams.
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