The £118,000 received by North Kesteven District Council from the government’s Swimming Pool Support Fund is specifically intended to offset increased energy costs and assist in the sustainability of pools as inflationary pressures continue to impact on costs such as chemicals.
Two-thirds of the money (£79,800) is directed to ONE NK in North Hykeham and £38,151 to Sleaford Leisure Centre which covers off some of its heating needs through an arrangement with the renewable energy plant which delivers excess heat into five community buildings, including the leisure centre.
Set against the health and social benefits that leisure centres and swimming pools bring to the community – with Swim England saying that water-based activity generates a social value of £2.4 billion a year to the UK – this fund was created within last spring’s budget.
This first £20 million of funding is targeted at 196 facilities across 103 council areas which are considered at greatest risk of closure or significant service reduction, and will be used to help with the recent rise in energy costs and pool chemicals.
A further bid has been made into the second part of the fund, worth £40m to help to further improve the financial and environmental sustainability of public swimming pools over the long term, which includes decarbonisation to make significant inroads into a leisure centre’s climate impacts.
North Kesteven District Council Chief Executive Ian Fytche, said it was a key priority for the council to support more people to be more active, more often, and that maintaining the viability and functionality of the centres it had invested in over the past decade was crucial to attaining that goal.
“It is essential that our leisure centres remain competitively priced, attractive and accessible for all types and level of user in order to help people to stay fit and healthy. And as pools in particular experience greater pressure due to increased operating costs we are deeply appreciative of this additional support in maintaining swimming programmes which favour a high level of public access.
“While energy costs are starting to come down from last year’s peak, which is welcome, expenditure for the first six months of this year have still been 240 per cent up on the same period in 2019/20. This increase is despite the council and its operating partner Better continuing to invest in various energy saving measures including LED lighting,” said Mr Fytche.
Over the full year of 2022, more than 800,000 people visited North Kesteven District Council’s leisure facilities, with £3,357,035 generated by them in social value over that time.
A discount card is available to district residents, making it easier and cheaper to access council leisure centre facilities in North Kesteven. Discounts and exclusive offers also apply at the Hub and Better Gym in Sleaford, and Sleaford Library which is also operated by Better.