Huge investment in the Hudson , Costa taking over catering, and under 8s swim free - part of exciting future for Fenland leisure centres

Freedom taking over FDC leisure centres

Freedom taking over FDC leisure centres - Credit: Archant

Nearly 60 per cent of the £350,000 a year savings that Fenland Council expects to make from its shake-up of leisure services will come from investment by a new management company into the Hudson at Wisbech.

The council says that of £1 million to be pumped into its four centres, half will be at the Hudson as part of what is being described as “an innovative capital investment programme.” It is expected the improvements will bring at least 60,000 new customers a year into the centre.

Freedom Leisure, who has signed a 15 year management contract with the council to run the centres, is unfazed by opposition to the removal of an indoor bowls centre at the Hudson.

A council spokesman said they will transform it into “a state-of-the-art gym and adjoining spinning studio and will free up the current gym space for a second exercise studio – enabling thousands more people to use the facilities”.

Freedom Leisure also expects to turn catering at March and Wisbech leisure centres over to Costa Coffee who will run the in-house cafes.

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“Developing the Hudson will also contribute £201,000 towards the annual savings of £350,000 – allowing the council to continue to provide a leisure service for the whole of Fenland within a reduced budget,” said the spokesman.

Also planned are self-service check-in kiosks, gym and studio improvements, a gym equipment upgrade in late 2019, and additional concessions and customer benefits.

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Other innovations expected are to provide free swimming for under 8s from low income households and over 75s and a talented athlete scheme to support access to leisure.

Councillor Mark Buckton, portfolio holder for leisure and young people, said: “The council will continue to retain ownership of the leisure centres, but allowing Freedom Leisure to operate them for us will bring so many benefits to Fenland.

“It will not only improve the council’s financial position but also bring much needed investment in our facilities which can only encourage more people to get involved and be active.

“We have been able to do this at the same time as securing concessions and access to services for those vulnerable groups who already enjoy the facilities.”

He said the Hudson Bowls Club has a lease to use the indoor bowls hall at the Hudson Centre until the end of December 2018, although the club will continue to have use of the hall until the end of the winter bowling season, with building works commencing in early summer 2019.

Freedom will also introduce short mat bowls at the Hudson to enable bowls to continue at the centre, and for the whole community to enjoy.

Cllr Buckton said: “Freedom is investing half a million pounds to transform the indoor bowls hall into a state-of-the-art gym and spinning room, which is a significant investment on their part and fantastic news for the whole of Wisbech.

“Inevitably this will leave members of the bowls club disappointed, but we are working with them to find alternative options that allow them to continue doing what they enjoy.

“With other local authorities across the country having to close leisure facilities due to financial pressures, this new partnership with Freedom will build upon the high-quality services people enjoy and ensure our leisure centres remain vibrant for years to come.”

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