Why did you launch the Leisure Framework?
Jamie: Launched in 2017 by Denbighshire County Council and managed by Denbighshire Leisure Ltd, the UK Leisure Framework was designed to help public sector bodies transform their leisure offer with successful and sustainable facilities.
It was born out of the success of our first partnership with Alliance Leisure, where we spent almost £10m upgrading facilities after years of under-investment. Our positive experience of the process led us to develop the framework and appoint Alliance Leisure as leisure development partner, to help other local authorities, by removing the burdens of public procurement.
How is it benefiting local authorities?
Sarah: The UK’s public sector procurement process is one of the longest and most expensive in the EU. By making the process quicker and easier, the framework makes the development of public sector leisure facilities more efficient and affordable.
The framework adopts a full service approach, supporting all elements that contribute to a successful, sustainable development, including design, business planning, funding, construction and marketing. Most other frameworks don’t have such scope, focusing instead on individual elements.
The focus on reducing costs and improving efficiencies means local authorities can dedicate more of their budget to the development.
This approach also helps to mitigate investment risk, as working with experts in leisure regeneration – and maximising efficiencies at every stage of the development – helps ensure the finished project delivers desired outcomes and creates income-generating opportunities, which in turn, drive sustainability.
Jamie: The process is also completely transparent, so local authorities can be certain of the costs, which gives them the confidence to invest. Thanks to the framework, we’ve seen that confidence grow, with £144m committed investment in public sector leisure facilities over the last four years.
What impact has the framework had?
Sarah: The framework has ensured the successful completion of vital projects designed to deliver lasting impact. Many would never have gone ahead without it, as the local authorities quite simply wouldn’t have been able to afford to deliver them.
Projects range from installing thenew sports pitches, such as the first 3G pitches in Anglesey, to transforming facilities at scale, as we helped Inverclyde Leisure to do, investing £2.6m in three leisure centres to achieve a 75 per cent increase in net income and 51 per cent rise in membership.
Jamie: To date, 41 projects have completed, with 12 more underway. Regardless of size or cost, all projects are designed to impact local health and social outcomes by creating healthier communities, while also being economically sustainable to ensure local authorities achieve their income targets.
How can it help local authorities?
Jamie: These are challenging times for public sector leisure. The pandemic has highlighted just how important physical activity is for our mental and physical health, yet Sport England figures show that COVID-19 has had a profound effect on people’s activity levels, with those from black, Asian and minority ethnic and lower socio-economic groups disproportionately affected.
The need for public leisure will be greater than ever post-pandemic, but facilities have to be much more relevant if they’re to create better social and financial returns for local authorities. By mitigating the risk and making developments easier and more cost-effective, the framework will allow councils to invest in the right provision to bring economic, health and social benefits to their communities.
Sarah: Local authorities will need to broaden their offerings, both indoors and outdoors, to create active environments that can be used by as many members of the community as possible to ensure value for money. They must consider splash pads, zip wires, outdoor play and parkour to really invigorate their leisure spaces and generate returns.
At its heart, the UK Leisure Framework is a proven vehicle for delivering inspiring schemes that increase opportunities for physical activity.