Rushmoor Borough Council has taken a significant step forward in bringing a new leisure centre to Farnborough.

The council’s Cabinet, meeting on Monday 16 December, agreed to begin the process of procuring a new leisure contract, covering both Farnborough Leisure Centre and the Aldershot Indoor Pools and Lido complex. The current contract has been in place since 2002 and expires in March 2021.

The replacement of Farnborough Leisure Centre is a major part of the regeneration of the civic quarter, which also includes Farnborough Library, the Elles Hall community centre, the former police station site and Westmead House. A masterplan for the site is currently being drawn up and is expected to be ready for consultation by late spring 2020.

Developing a new contract will bring significant financial benefits to the council. It will also refocus the service to align with the council’s vision for 2030, with greater emphasis on health and wellbeing, particularly in increasing participation from disadvantaged and under-represented groups.

The current leisure centre was built more than 40 years ago and attracts around 600,000 visits a year, but a report commissioned in February identified that the centre looked dated, the main pool was not fit for competition swimming, the flat roofs required regular maintenance and the machinery was becoming obsolete. An analysis of the demographics of the borough showed that Rushmoor has a population with key groups of inactive people and there was a specific need for activities for those with life-limiting disabilities, males and young people aged 17-34. The cost of a new build, at £18 to 24million was around half that of a refurbished leisure centre (£40 million).

The recommended facilities mix includes:

  • A 25-metre, eight-lane main pool and a 20-metre, four-lane, intermediate pool with a moveable floor
  • A fitness suite with 150 stations
  • An eight court main sports hall, two multi-purpose sprung flood studios, one permanent spinning studio and two squash courts
  • A ten-pin bowling alley
  • A café and soft play area, physio rooms and a sauna and steam room

The Cabinet also agreed to put aside £10,000 to work with the Rushmoor Indoor Bowling Club to look at alternative options for indoor bowls locally, as the cost of including dedicated space for the activity in a new leisure centre was too high. The procurement process for the new leisure centre will start early in the new year with the operator being chosen by October 2020 ready to begin the new contract on 1 April 2021.

During the procurement process, bidders will also be asked to generate ideas for Aldershot Indoor Pools and Lido.

Rushmoor Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Operational Services, Councillor Maurice Sheehan, said: “The procurement process is a long and complicated process, but deciding who our leisure provider will be is a major decision for the council, and in terms of expenditure and potential savings, is one of the most important decisions we have to make.

“Farnborough needs a new leisure centre fit for the 21st century that will be a major attraction in the new civic quarter.”