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At the Council’s Policy Committee on Monday 20th January, councillors agreed to award Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) the 25-year contract to design, build, operate and run Reading’s leisure service, as part of the Council’s commitment to invest over £40 million in modern new leisure facilities for Reading.

GLL runs leisure services under the Better brand.

The contract includes delivering a 25m, 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park by early 2022 and a 25m 8-lane competition pool with diving provision at Rivermead, by summer 2022.

Reading can now look forward to a flagship modern new-build leisure centre at Rivermead, incorporating:

  • A 25m 8-lane competition pool with moveable floor and 300 spectator seats;
  • A combined teaching and diving pool with moveable floor;
  • Splash pads;
  • A 6-court sports hall with 250 spectator seats;
  • A 120-station gym with 3 studios;
  • A café/ info hub and soft play.

At Palmer Park, in addition to the refurbishment of the existing stadium building, the site will benefit from:

  • a modern new 25m 6-lane community pool;
  • a 100 station gym with 3 studios;
  • a junior activity zone/soft play facility with party rooms;
  • a new café and information hub.

Reading’s other two leisure centres will also benefit from improvements: Meadway Sport Centre in west Reading will have a new multi-purpose studio and improved gym, and at South Reading Leisure Centre there will be new health and fitness equipment and gym space.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Sport, said:

This decision is excellent news for Reading. I’m delighted to announce GLL as our successful leisure partner, who – working closely will the Council – will transform leisure facilities in Reading, including building modern new swimming pools at both Palmer Park and at Rivermead, delivered in 2022.

“We were fortunate to receive extremely strong and credible bids from very professional and well-respected leisure providers. We rigorously weighed up these options and made the final decision on the bid we are confident will deliver the best possible outcome for families and residents who live in Reading.

“The announcement of our new leisure provider cements our plans for the long-term replacement for Central Pool on the Rivermead site, with a 25m 8-lane competition pool with dedicated diving provision and to opening a brand new 25m 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park, linked to existing sports facilities – combine the benefits of a sizable pool, velodrome and athletics stadium all in one accessible location – delivering a fairly unique facility in the region and putting Reading firmly on the map as a top sports destination. We have chosen an option which achieves a good balance for Reading, for the community and for families.

“As well as the improved facilities across all leisure sites, this will enable the introduction of membership and customer schemes allowing access to all Council facilities, which is an option often requested by residents. There will also be a drive to increase activity, health and wellbeing across the borough, with targeted work in the community to reach those in most need and work towards reducing health inequalities.

“We’ve partnered with GLL for a number of years now at Rivermead and this relationship will now move on to a new level of investment and performance. We’ll be working closely with GLL to look at best practice examples they and other leisure providers have delivered across the country with the aim of bringing these examples of first-class facilities and service to Reading.”

Paul Shearman, GLL Partnership Manager for Reading, added: 

“We are excited to now be in the position to work alongside Reading Borough Council to invest in Reading’s leisure service. With this investment and in close partnership with the Council, we are dedicated to improving the quality of service to residents and the reach of sports and leisure facilities within the town. 

“This major commitment to build new and upgrade facilities will mean that the Council’s leisure offer will be completely transformed over the coming years. As a charitable Social Enterprise, focussed on improving, growing participation and reaching out to Reading’s community, we will ensure there really will be ‘something for everyone’ regardless of age, fitness level or income.

“We have already partnered the Council in the delivery of Rivermead Leisure Complex for the past 12 years, but now we are ready to move into a whole new level of partnership, working closely will the Council to provide a first-class service for residents and families across the town. We’ll be looking to draw on our experience of delivering numerous successful leisure services across the country to bring the best of what we’ve learned to Reading.”

GLL will introduce membership and customer schemes, allowing access to every single Council sports facility across the borough, with a free ‘Reading Resident’s Card’ giving up to 30% discount from activity charges and up to 50% discount for concessions.

The decision marks the end of a robust Council procurement process, supported by independent specialist leisure consultants and with advice from Sport England and which included input from local clubs and user groups who provided feedback on their aspirations for what new facilities should provide.

Following the decision, GLL, after a mobilisation period, will implement their detailed proposals and build the new facilities, as well as operating existing facilities. The contract will officially begin from Spring 2020.

There will also be a drive to improve health and wellbeing across Reading, aiming for a 40% increase in participation levels, with targeted activities to help reduce health inequalities, including discounts for young, older and disabled people; weight management courses, cardiac and cancer rehabilitation, falls prevention interventions and dementia friendly training for staff.

GLL is a social enterprise and committed to paying all staff the living wage, offering apprenticeships and work experience placements for local young people, with a target to have a minimum 75% of those employed residing within Reading Borough.

Aligning with the Council’s commitment to sustainability and energy efficiency, GLL intends to ensure all centres are operated in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. The replacement leisure centre at Rivermead and the new pool at Palmer Park will be developed to BREEAM Excellent standards and with the use of renewables where possible, as well as putting in place measures to reduce carbon emissions and improve environmental efficiency.

For more information visit www.reading.gov.uk/newleisure or contact new.leisure@reading.gov.uk