Inclusive Spaces
Sport for all

A new breed of leisure centre – catering for people with dementia and other special needs – opened in Crewe last month. The £15m facility is in line with Sport England’s new strategy of creating inclusive community hubs

By Tom Walker | Published in Sports Management 27 Jun 2016 issue 123


The newly opened £15m Crewe Lifestyle Centre is more than just a leisure facility. Covering 7,800sq m (83,959sq ft) across two storeys, the building has been designed as a ‘next generation’ community hub – bringing together a range of different services under one roof.

As well as sport and fitness facilities, the Lifestyle Centre houses a new library, a family services centre, a café and office space. There are also day-care facilities for adults with learning disabilities and other complex needs, such as autism and sensory impairment.

One of the centre’s special features is a dementia garden – a therapeutic, enclosed and safe area for vulnerable adults. The primary purpose of the garden is to provide sensory stimulation through sounds, sights, touch and smells gained from the grasses, water features and flowers.

The centre’s sports facilities are managed by leisure trust Everybody Sport & Recreation and have been made accessible for those with special needs, including the 25m (82ft), eight-lane swimming pool and a 17m learner pool. Each pool has elevated platforms and access to its own advanced hydraulic wheelchair lift to aid disabled and mobility-impaired users, making the pools accessible to swimmers of all abilities.

Other spaces include a four-court, multi-purpose sports hall and group fitness studios. There’s also a 100-station health and fitness club fitted out by Matrix Fitness – featuring a selection of Inclusive Fitness Initiative-accredited (disability friendly) equipment. There are also separate changing facilities for wet and dry leisure use, with dedicated changing facilities for customers with disabilities.

INCLUSIVE ACCESS
A key motivation for the creation of a centralised hub was to provide a place where people with special needs could build their confidence and become physically active. Co-locating the council’s adult services department alongside sports amenities – making the sports provision more familiar to care services users – has been identified as one way of achieving this goal.

A special feature of the build is that it’s one of the first centres to cater for people living with dementia and it allows them to access all the facilities within the building independently.

According to Paul Winrow, operations director at Everybody Sport & Recreation, having different services sitting side by side will lower the barrier for people with disabilities to try them out.

“The idea is to provide a place where those who use adult and social day-care spaces are encouraged to use other council facilities too, in order to help them enrich their lives,” he says. “As well as nudging them to sports, the intention is to make users familiar with the library and everything else that the council offers. The addition of the café means that the Lifestyle Centre is a place where people can spend the entire day.”

Winrow adds that as well as increasing participation numbers among special populations, the joined up services have produced much needed operational cost savings for the council at a time when public finances are under increased pressure. The opening of the new centre meant that the council was able to mothball three ageing leisure centres and concentrate operations on one site.

“There have been significant savings – there’s no doubt about that,” Winrow says. “We had ageing leisure and social care stock which was costing a lot in maintenance. Bringing those sites under one roof, and into a modern building, means we have eliminated those costs entirely.

“The old Crewe Swimming Pool, for example, was housed in a 1940s building. Accessibility was poor – it wasn’t inclusive in any shape or form – and the gym was rather disjointed. There were no exercise studios either, so it simply wasn’t fit for purpose as a modern facility catering for the range of users we have.”

The amalgamation of three separate sites into one has also been wholly positive for membership numbers. “When the three sites operated separately, we had 900 members across them,” Winrow reveals. “Now that we’ve combined the three, our membership stands at more than 2,500. So we’ve trebled the membership in three months.”

Lifetime Centre


Cost: £15m

Owner: Cheshire East Council

Operator: Everybody Sport & Recreation

Architect: Pozzoni

Builder: Kier Construction

Timeline:
June 2013 - Council approves funding
May 2014 - Planning approval received
August 2014 - Construction begins
February 2016 - Building work completed
May 2016 - Official opening

 


Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography

Each pool has elevated platforms and access to an advanced hydraulic wheelchair lift

Q&A: Paul Winrow, Operations Director

 

Paul Winrow
 
Paul Winrow Operations Director Lifestyle Centre

Which special needs groups will use the Lifestyle Centre?
The Acorn Adult Day Care Centre – which organises the council’s adult care services – is now based at the Lifestyle Centre. This means all Acorn’s users are able to use the leisure facilities, something they weren’t able to do previously due to Acorn’s separate location in the town.

There are also a number of community disability groups and charities which use the centre, including the Seahorse Swimming Club, Cheshire Centre for Independent Living and Crewe Care (Belong). Swim sessions, including those for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers, are also organised by Everybody’s dedicated disability and inclusion staff as part of our leisure development programmes.

How many people with special needs use the centre on a regular basis?
The Acorn Centre has 70 clients in the centre each day, the majority of whom have a learning disability. We also support adults with physical disabilities and dementia and the number of people which have a higher level of support needs is around 55. Springfield School arranges a swim every week and around 15-20 of their students have complex special needs.

Has sports staff received specialised training due to the diverse users?
There hasn’t been external training, although some of the user groups coming in have offered us training relating to their specific needs. We have set up a number of workshops and there’s an operational meeting every week to make sure all staff understand what each department at the Lifestyle Centre does.



Q&A: David Spoors, associate, Pozzoni Architecture

 

David Spoors
 
David Spoors Associate Pozzoni Architecture

Could you describe the special needs-friendly design elements at Crewe Lifestyle Centre?
As well as making the centre fully wheelchair accessible, there are design techniques throughout which are normally only used in areas used by vulnerable people. Doors have been colour coded to signify public, semi-public and private spaces and they also carry symbols which can be recognisable without the need to understand signage or brail. The needs of people with dementia have also been considered, through materials and colour choice to avoid discomfort or confusion.

Do you expect the need for such spaces to increase considering efforts to get people active?
Definitely. Personally, I don’t believe there’s any excuse as to why leisure spaces cannot be designed to cater for people of all ages or abilities.
Techniques can be employed from an early stage in order to allow a leisure space to be easily understood and used by all. Solutions ranging from simple wayfinding through signage, imagery and colours to advanced technological installations can better cater for an ever-growing population.

There has never been such a variety of leisure activities – why shouldn’t they be enjoyed by everyone? Even the tightest budget can accommodate some degree of designing for all.


creating inclusive community hubs Credit: Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
The Lifestyle Centre has been designed to nudge people using the adult services and day-care centre into trying sports and fitness activities Credit: Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
Swim sessions are organised for disability groups and charities, including for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers Credit: Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Sports Management
27 Jun 2016 issue 123

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Sport for all

Inclusive Spaces

Sport for all


A new breed of leisure centre – catering for people with dementia and other special needs – opened in Crewe last month. The £15m facility is in line with Sport England’s new strategy of creating inclusive community hubs

Tom Walker, Leisure Media
Crewe Lifestyle Centre combines sport and fitness with a family services hub and day-care facilities for adults with special needs Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
creating inclusive community hubs Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
The Lifestyle Centre has been designed to nudge people using the adult services and day-care centre into trying sports and fitness activities Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography
Swim sessions are organised for disability groups and charities, including for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography

The newly opened £15m Crewe Lifestyle Centre is more than just a leisure facility. Covering 7,800sq m (83,959sq ft) across two storeys, the building has been designed as a ‘next generation’ community hub – bringing together a range of different services under one roof.

As well as sport and fitness facilities, the Lifestyle Centre houses a new library, a family services centre, a café and office space. There are also day-care facilities for adults with learning disabilities and other complex needs, such as autism and sensory impairment.

One of the centre’s special features is a dementia garden – a therapeutic, enclosed and safe area for vulnerable adults. The primary purpose of the garden is to provide sensory stimulation through sounds, sights, touch and smells gained from the grasses, water features and flowers.

The centre’s sports facilities are managed by leisure trust Everybody Sport & Recreation and have been made accessible for those with special needs, including the 25m (82ft), eight-lane swimming pool and a 17m learner pool. Each pool has elevated platforms and access to its own advanced hydraulic wheelchair lift to aid disabled and mobility-impaired users, making the pools accessible to swimmers of all abilities.

Other spaces include a four-court, multi-purpose sports hall and group fitness studios. There’s also a 100-station health and fitness club fitted out by Matrix Fitness – featuring a selection of Inclusive Fitness Initiative-accredited (disability friendly) equipment. There are also separate changing facilities for wet and dry leisure use, with dedicated changing facilities for customers with disabilities.

INCLUSIVE ACCESS
A key motivation for the creation of a centralised hub was to provide a place where people with special needs could build their confidence and become physically active. Co-locating the council’s adult services department alongside sports amenities – making the sports provision more familiar to care services users – has been identified as one way of achieving this goal.

A special feature of the build is that it’s one of the first centres to cater for people living with dementia and it allows them to access all the facilities within the building independently.

According to Paul Winrow, operations director at Everybody Sport & Recreation, having different services sitting side by side will lower the barrier for people with disabilities to try them out.

“The idea is to provide a place where those who use adult and social day-care spaces are encouraged to use other council facilities too, in order to help them enrich their lives,” he says. “As well as nudging them to sports, the intention is to make users familiar with the library and everything else that the council offers. The addition of the café means that the Lifestyle Centre is a place where people can spend the entire day.”

Winrow adds that as well as increasing participation numbers among special populations, the joined up services have produced much needed operational cost savings for the council at a time when public finances are under increased pressure. The opening of the new centre meant that the council was able to mothball three ageing leisure centres and concentrate operations on one site.

“There have been significant savings – there’s no doubt about that,” Winrow says. “We had ageing leisure and social care stock which was costing a lot in maintenance. Bringing those sites under one roof, and into a modern building, means we have eliminated those costs entirely.

“The old Crewe Swimming Pool, for example, was housed in a 1940s building. Accessibility was poor – it wasn’t inclusive in any shape or form – and the gym was rather disjointed. There were no exercise studios either, so it simply wasn’t fit for purpose as a modern facility catering for the range of users we have.”

The amalgamation of three separate sites into one has also been wholly positive for membership numbers. “When the three sites operated separately, we had 900 members across them,” Winrow reveals. “Now that we’ve combined the three, our membership stands at more than 2,500. So we’ve trebled the membership in three months.”

Lifetime Centre


Cost: £15m

Owner: Cheshire East Council

Operator: Everybody Sport & Recreation

Architect: Pozzoni

Builder: Kier Construction

Timeline:
June 2013 - Council approves funding
May 2014 - Planning approval received
August 2014 - Construction begins
February 2016 - Building work completed
May 2016 - Official opening

 


Beccy Lane/Positive Image Photography

Each pool has elevated platforms and access to an advanced hydraulic wheelchair lift

Q&A: Paul Winrow, Operations Director

 

Paul Winrow
 
Paul Winrow Operations Director Lifestyle Centre

Which special needs groups will use the Lifestyle Centre?
The Acorn Adult Day Care Centre – which organises the council’s adult care services – is now based at the Lifestyle Centre. This means all Acorn’s users are able to use the leisure facilities, something they weren’t able to do previously due to Acorn’s separate location in the town.

There are also a number of community disability groups and charities which use the centre, including the Seahorse Swimming Club, Cheshire Centre for Independent Living and Crewe Care (Belong). Swim sessions, including those for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers, are also organised by Everybody’s dedicated disability and inclusion staff as part of our leisure development programmes.

How many people with special needs use the centre on a regular basis?
The Acorn Centre has 70 clients in the centre each day, the majority of whom have a learning disability. We also support adults with physical disabilities and dementia and the number of people which have a higher level of support needs is around 55. Springfield School arranges a swim every week and around 15-20 of their students have complex special needs.

Has sports staff received specialised training due to the diverse users?
There hasn’t been external training, although some of the user groups coming in have offered us training relating to their specific needs. We have set up a number of workshops and there’s an operational meeting every week to make sure all staff understand what each department at the Lifestyle Centre does.



Q&A: David Spoors, associate, Pozzoni Architecture

 

David Spoors
 
David Spoors Associate Pozzoni Architecture

Could you describe the special needs-friendly design elements at Crewe Lifestyle Centre?
As well as making the centre fully wheelchair accessible, there are design techniques throughout which are normally only used in areas used by vulnerable people. Doors have been colour coded to signify public, semi-public and private spaces and they also carry symbols which can be recognisable without the need to understand signage or brail. The needs of people with dementia have also been considered, through materials and colour choice to avoid discomfort or confusion.

Do you expect the need for such spaces to increase considering efforts to get people active?
Definitely. Personally, I don’t believe there’s any excuse as to why leisure spaces cannot be designed to cater for people of all ages or abilities.
Techniques can be employed from an early stage in order to allow a leisure space to be easily understood and used by all. Solutions ranging from simple wayfinding through signage, imagery and colours to advanced technological installations can better cater for an ever-growing population.

There has never been such a variety of leisure activities – why shouldn’t they be enjoyed by everyone? Even the tightest budget can accommodate some degree of designing for all.



Originally published in Sports Management 27 Jun 2016 issue 123

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