Major investment in leisure facilities is set to be agreed by Worthing Borough Council as it looks to help communities continue to bounce back from COVID.
With lockdown restrictions lifted, South Downs Leisure – which operates facilities in the town on behalf of the Council – has now resumed the majority of activities across its four sites. Thousands of people a week are using Worthing Leisure Centre, Davison Leisure Centre and Field Place while a newly-created app allows more than 12,000 subscribers to take part in fitness classes at home.
To help South Downs Leisure continue to thrive and support the reopening of the swimming pool at Splashpoint, councillors will be asked to release a six-figure sum of emergency COVID funding to the trust.
A separate report to the Joint Strategic Committee (JSC) also requests the Council to release £340,000 of Section 106 cash towards creating a new 3G football pitch at Palatine Park. The intention is to ensure residents have as much access as possible to regular exercise opportunities, which supports wellbeing while reducing the risks of COVID and other conditions.
Councillor Edward Crouch, Worthing Borough Council’s Executive Member for Digital & Environmental Services, said: “Providing good-quality places for people to exercise and take part in activities which support wellbeing has never been more important. That’s why we are determined to use the resources we have to support, enhance and create a range of facilities for our residents.
“In extremely difficult times, South Downs Leisure has done sterling work to ensure that our leisure centres were ready for action the moment COVID restrictions were lifted. This extra funding will allow them to build on that and ensure the high level of demand for activities is met moving forward.
“The investment in a new 3G football pitch at Palatine Park also underlines our commitment to working with the community and wider partners to create new spaces, where we can.”
Reports to be discussed by JSC tomorrow (Tuesday, September 8, 2020) outline the difficulties leisure providers across the UK have had due to the pandemic, with many needing financial assistance to stay viable.
The Council will note that during lockdown South Downs Leisure took a proactive approach to ensure it could reopen safely while ensuring it would remain operating on a sustainable footing moving forward. This included investing in new screens to establish more than 200 virtual classes each week, turning the main hall at Worthing Leisure Centre into one of the south coast’s largest gyms and relocating racquet sports to the Davison site.
To support the trust moving forward and cover COVID associated costs, councillors will be asked to agree to release significant funding. The total amount of investment, which cannot be released publicly for commercial reasons, will come from the Government’s COVID-19 Emergency Funding.
The same meeting will also see executive councillors discuss releasing a contribution towards a new £915,000 3G facility at Palatine Park. Two-thirds of the funding is coming from a Football Foundation grant. When complete, the new pitch will be managed by South Downs Leisure with use shared between pre-arranged community hire and Worthing Town FC, which has more than 500 players in mens, womens and youth teams.
Investment in leisure provision is a key part of “And Then…”, the Councils’ short, sharp programme of interventions and assistance to help the communities of Adur and Worthing bounce back from the impact of lockdown.