In July 2018 Council approved a capital scheme to extend Farnham Leisure Centre and expand the facilities. This report provides an update on the Farnham leisure investment project and requests approval for some changes to the proposed facilities which will be met from the existing approved budget, namely extended adventure (soft) play, larger café and seating, new energy efficiencies and closure of the crèche.
It is recommended that the Executive:
1. Agrees the revised facility mix for Farnham Leisure Centre, including the closure of the crèche, reflecting the extremely low usage and the minimal impact identified in the Equality Impact Assessment;
2. Gives officers delegated authority to deliver the development project, including the procurement of the contractor;
3. Agrees that energy efficiency, carbon reduction opportunities are explored and where possible and subject to being within budget are embedded within the project, as part of the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.
72.1 Cllr David Beaman introduced the report setting out the proposed changes to the specification of the improvements to be made to Farnham Leisure Centre within the scope of the £1.5m capital budget approved in July 2018. The original specification had included a children’s indoor climbing facility, but the specialist operator had now decided to open in Alton and Fleet and so this was no longer available for Farnham. Waverley’s leisure centre contractor, Places Leisure, considered that it was now no longer financially viable to include a climbing facility within the proposed improvements due to the level of provision locally.
72.2 Opportunities for alternative improvements to the Leisure Centre had been explored with Places Leisure, and proposals now included extending the adventure play area and connected seating whilst still retaining the increased café area of the original proposals. Options were also being explored to make the leisure centre more energy efficient, with the aim of reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.
72.3 As part of the proposals Places Leisure had recommended closure of the crèche facility, which would enable the new facility mix to be provided. The crèche was typically operating at only 15% of capacity (average attendance of 4 children per day over the last quarter) and an Equality Impact Assessment had concluded that there would be minimal impact only on those parents or carers with no alternative childcare arrangements.
72.4 In conclusion, Cllr Beaman endorsed the recommendations to the Executive, in order to progress the investment in facilities at Farnham Leisure Centre whilst taking account of developments since the original approval of the facility mix and budget.
72.5 Cllr Jerry Hyman asked whether, now that the climbing facility was not an option, the Council was just looking for ways to spend the agreed budget of £1.5m. He pointed out that the skate park next to the Leisure Centre had potential for improvements including installation of lighting posts that would enable it to be used for longer in the winter, a larger landing area on the north-east side, and a new round grind bar. These improvements had been costed at around £15k in 206/17 but so far funding from the Countryside budget had not been available. He asked whether these might now be funded from the Leisure Centre improvement budget.
72.6 Cllr Beaman thanked Cllr Hyman for his constructive suggestion about improving the skate park, which he assured Cllr Hyman he would look into further. However, Cllr Beaman also assured Cllr Hyman that the proposed improvements to the Leisure Centre were not just for the sake of spending the agreed budget. They were linked to significant improvements in the management fee payable by the contractor to Waverley, and given the very competitive operating environment in Farnham, it was important to maximise revenue benefits of the facility.
72.7 The Executive RESOLVED to:
1. Agree the revised facility mix for Farnham Leisure Centre, including the closure of the crèche, reflecting the extremely low usage and the minimal impact identified in the Equality Impact Assessment;
2. Give officers delegated authority to deliver the development project, including the procurement of the contractor;
3. Agree that energy efficiency, carbon reduction opportunities are explored and, where possible and subject to being within budget, are embedded within the project, as part of the Council’s Climate Emergency Action Plan.
Reason: To progress the investment in facilities at Farnham Leisure Centre taking account of developments since the original approval of the facility mix and budget.