Council sets public health goals for developer of Reading's new swimming pools

The council is putting £450k of its public health budget towards the £40m leisure schemes and hopes to offer certain residents extra support or discounts to boost exercise rates.
Artist's impression of Palmer Park pool

Certain groups of people in Reading could get discounted classes, memberships or extra support at the new swimming pools to be built in our town, according to Reading Borough Council (RBC).

The council says it is planning to put £450,000 of its public health budget towards the major changes to leisure facilities, as a way of improving health and wellbeing of residents.

RBC says it expects Greenwich Leisure, the company it recently appointed to build and upgrade leisure facilities, to ‘work towards a series of targets that include public health goals'.

Which people in Reading could benefit?

The council says it hopes to increase exercise at the new facilities in people who are:

  • aged under 16
  • aged over 60
  • dealing with mental health issues
  • living with learning disabilities
  • living with physical disabilities
  • referred by GPs to get active to help with long-term health conditions

Free taster sessions and discounted classes and memberships would be offered to ‘key groups’ such as people on lower incomes, the council adds.

RBC is investing £40m on the leisure scheme, which includes a 25m, 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park by early 2022 and a 25m 8-lane competition pool at Rivermead, by summer 2022.

Plans for spending on leisure services were included in the council’s public consultation held from 19 December 2019 to 19 January 2020, on its draft budget for 2020-2021.

Of the 650 comments submitted by residents, 51 were about leisure. These were a mix of those in support, and others who ‘expressed concerned that £40m sounded like a lot compared to other investments, or that leisure seemed a luxury compared to basic needs such as adult social care’.

In response, the council states: ‘As well as modern, fit-for-purpose facilities, the programme of improvements has a strong public health component and includes £450,000 of investment from the Council’s public health budget.’

RBC received £9.5m from the government for public health in 2019-20 but the amount for the coming year has not yet been confirmed. Public health services include sexual health clinics, stop smoking schemes, weight management, treatment for drug or alcohol addiction, and school nursing.

* The council’s budget will be put to councillors for formal approval at a Policy Committee meeting on 17 February 2020. The budget is Item 6 on the agenda and feedback from the public consultation is set out in Appendix 10 of this item.

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