Council’s successful swimming pool funding bid makes a big splash in Belper and Alfreton

Belper Leisure Centre is celebrating another welcome funding victory following a second successful bid by Amber Valley Borough Council to the Government’s Swimming Pool Support Fund (SPSF).

The centre has been awarded £175k for investments in energy-saving improvements from the £40m Phase 2 capital round of the SPSF scheme administered by Sport England.

Following Amber Valley Borough Council’s successful application, Alfreton Leisure Centre, which is managed by Places Leisure under contract to the council, has also benefited to the tune of £198,605 from the same fund.      

Belper Leisure Centre faced almost certain closure last year when sky-rocketing energy prices helped to create a £360k deficit in the centre’s coffers.

But Amber Valley Borough Council’s new Labour administration jumped to the rescue, pledging £150k of its own funds to help save the struggling facility. 

The council then won a further £180k in revenue funding for Belper Leisure Centre from Phase 1 of the SPSF, announced in November by Sport England.

The new grant awards for both leisure centres will be spent on capital investment for energy efficient management of the sites. 

Councillor Chris Emmas-Williams, who spearheaded the drive to save Belper Leisure Centre when he became council leader last May, said: "We were absolutely delighted last year when Sport England approved our bid for revenue funding for Belper Leisure Centre.

"Together with the council’s own funding pledge, it offered an essential lifeline to the thousands of children and adults that have benefited from the centre. Without it, Belper faced almost certain closure, which would have been devastating for so many people.

"Now, with this week’s announcement, the additional award for capital energy-saving improvements, provides the much-needed building blocks on the journey for Belper’s long-term survival.

"I am also over the moon that the council’s own facility in Alfreton has been awarded almost £200k from the national funding pot. This really is a day for celebration!"  

Following an announcement last summer that Belper Leisure Centre was threatened with closure, the council’s subsequent support encouraged the non-profit charity and social enterprise Trilogy Active Ltd to step in to manage the centre.

Its fortunes looked brighter once Sport England approved a £180,930 revenue funding allocation in November, to be spent on things like utility bills and pool chemicals. The funding came from the £20m Phase 1 of the SPSF scheme, which was set up using Lottery money to help England’s swimming pools survive the nationwide hike in energy costs.

The £40m Phase 2 support package is specifically ring-fenced for capital expenditures that improve the energy efficiency of public swimming pool facilities in the medium to long term.

Despite the fact that Belper Leisure Centre is not a council-run venue, only local authorities were eligible to apply for funding in their areas.

Councillor Emmas-Williams said: "While Belper is not completely out of the woods yet, these successful funding bids will help massively. As a council, we are extremely proud to have helped the team at Belper and everyone who uses the centre."

In addition to the 25-metre pool, Belper Leisure Centre has a gym with spa, sports hall, multi-purpose gymnasium, squash courts and an outdoor 3G floodlit artificial grass pitch. 

As well as offering general public access at the venue in John O’Gaunts Way, the centre is a hugely important facility for groups like Belper Marlin Swimming Club and pupils at the adjacent Belper School & Sixth Form Centre. 

Over 500 capital interventions in over 300 facilities with swimming pools have been awarded funding from the Government and Sport England’s £60m SPSF capital investment programme.

Lisa Dodd-Mayne, executive director of Sport England, said: "Swimming pools and leisure centres are vital community resources and are enormously important in helping people to be physically active.  

"Many pools have faced a real and significant threat to their survival this year, as local authorities and operators have battled the challenge of increased energy and wider costs, weakened reserves and difficulties with retaining staff. 

"Sport England is proud of the role we’ve played in supporting these facilities through this difficult period. We hope today’s funding announcement will enable more public pools to improve their energy efficiency to be more environmentally and financially sustainable, so they remain available for future generations to enjoy."

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