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Creating a more sustainable future for the public leisure industry

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Weightlifting at the gym

Creating a more sustainable future for the public leisure industry

Sport England has published a report today outlining a shared vision for the future of public leisure as the sector looks to move from delivering traditional services to a wider focus on active wellbeing.

The vision looks to create a closer relationship between health and leisure, providing people with convenient places and ways to be active, located in close proximity to other health and social care services and facilities.

It is hoped the co-location of facilities will maximise the impact and value for money of these services and form a key part of the 20 minute neighbourhood concept.

Sport England’s chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said:

“Public leisure facilities and services have a vital and unique role to play in our sport and activity ecosystem because of their value to the people who use them most.

“Months after the pandemic restrictions were lifted, participation levels at public leisure facilities have only partially recovered. 

“Facilities have also had to battle rising energy costs, chemical shortages and challenges in maintaining the right levels of recruitment and retention of the workforce. 

“However, the sector has come together to meet these challenges and, where possible, turn them into opportunities. 

“Collectively the focus should be on repositioning the traditional offer of public leisure into an active wellbeing service, doing more to create healthier and more active communities.

“The sector has already seen good examples of the shift in approach across the country but also recognises the need for national momentum.

“By providing this common agenda, we will help the sector move forward in a sustainable way with a service that meets the needs of modern users.”

The impact of the restrictions resulting from the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the rising cost of energy and challenges with recruitment and retention, are some of the factors being felt hard by local authorities and public leisure operators.

Plus overall visits to these facilities only reached 76 per cent of pre-coronavirus levels in England between April 2021 and October 2022.  

Today’s report maps out shared medium-term goals for the public leisure sector and compiles commitments from across multiple stakeholders which cover a range of activities that will support services on the ground, strengthen the sector’s leadership, facilitate innovation and help to share best practice. 

The model also focuses on added value and supporting the delivery of key local priorities, aiding local authorities looking to collaborate more with parts of their local ‘system’, in order to better deliver community outcomes and align with their broader strategic outcomes – particularly health. 

Click here to read the full Sport England report.


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