Agenda item

Beth Rowland asked the Executive Member for Environment the following question:



As Wokingham now has some responsibility for the health of its residents – how far would an eight lane pool in Woodley help towards meeting those responsibilities?



Thank you for your question.  It gives me an opportunity to set out the health benefits of the Council’s aspirations for leisure services which are set out in the draft Leisure Strategy which is currently out for open public consultation until 23 December.  The aims of the Strategy are to:


·         be an Authority which promotes opportunities for all residents to be active and to participate in sporting and leisure activities to improve health and wellbeing, in high quality facilities or environments;

·         enable an increase in the proportion of the adult population achieving the Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guide;

·         support the aims of the Childhood Obesity Plan;

·         maintain leisure centre provision through a model of community facilities, both wet and dry, in each of the Borough’s main localities; the three towns of Wokingham, Woodley, and Earley with Arborfield and Ryeish Green facilities being added to the Borough’s leisure assets in the near future;

·         enable the provision of other facilities across the Borough which offer multiple use and not exclusivity for one group or activity and which make use of the Borough’s open green spaces;

·         support the contribution made by voluntary organisations; and.

·         deliver services and facilities which cover their delivery and maintenance costs, providing a significant and maximised income for the Council, value for the Council Tax payer and maximum return on investment and fair levels of charging for the population.


As can be seen, many aims have promoting and improving the health of our residents at their heart. In essence, maintaining a leisure centre at Bulmershe which contains: swimming pools; a sports hall; gym and fitness studios will maintain, and with a new or better facility, expand opportunities for our residents to participate in the types of physical activity which benefit both mental and physical health. In addition, the specialist equipment and services provided to people with long term health conditions can be shown to directly impact positively on the likelihood of some of these people requiring Council-funded social care.  As a facility which has shared use with Bulmershe School, the centre and its swimming pool contribute to the health of children and young people, and through swimming lessons, on their safety also. The use of the pool and other facilities by community groups and sports clubs provides further opportunity for their members to maintain and improve their levels of fitness and health.


On the issue of the pool having eight lanes; this is one of the options put before us. We have an option of a six lane pool; and the refurbish option would include a pool of the current size, which has five lanes. The number of lanes in the new build options is subject to Executive consideration of the cost-benefits of these different options, which include the build costs and running costs set against the estimated revenue earnings from the management fee provided by the operator. They are also separately subject to the planning process, and the design of an acceptable scheme for what is in reality a small site for such an operation as a leisure centre. May I stress that no capital spend has yet been agreed for rebuilding or refurbishing Bulmershe Leisure Centre.


Supplementary Question

That was a very comprehensive reply and one I was pleased to hear from you.  As you know if it hadn’t been for Woodley Town Council then the pool would not be there now for you to develop and we would be starting from scratch if you were to put a pool in Woodley.  This means that Woodley residents were double rated for many years as they paid their leisure bill to Wokingham and to Woodley Town Council. 


When the leisure contract was put in place several years ago, or many years ago now, Woodley Town Council also asked that the pool be included in it and Wokingham turned it down.  I believe because of that Woodley now deserves the best and I think an eight lane pool will provide the best return for money and the best return for the residents of the Borough and I would urge you all to look at that carefully tonight and hopefully choose it.


Will you choose it?


Supplementary Answer

That will be up to my colleagues a bit later.