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

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

The council has asked the developers of new swimming pools in Reading to boost exercise rates among certain groups of people in Reading.

However under the changes, the Your Reading Passport scheme - which currently gives free off-peak swimming to people aged 60 and over - will end and be replaced with a different discount structure.

The details were set out at meetings held in public during February 2020. They show that Reading Borough Council is planning to put £450,000 of its public health budget towards the £40m leisure overall. Reading should get a 25m, 6-lane community pool at Palmer Park by early 2022 and a 25m 8-lane competition pool at Rivermead, by summer 2022.

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

Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for health, wellbeing and sport, said that "GLL have opted to make significant improvements to facilities and provide a number of targeted activities within their programme".

This would include:

  • a 'Reading Resident’s Card' that will replace the current Your Reading Passport and give up to 30 per cent discount from activity charges and up to 50 per cent discount for concessions
  • free weekly targeted sessions on a range of activities for concessionary users
  • provision of a comprehensive concessionary pricing structure.

Other initiatives would include expanding the 60+ activities and clubs across all leisure centres in Reading, providing more walking sports, and developing new activities with Age UK and the University of the 3rd Age, Councillor Hoskin added. For people living with disability and health conditions, there were plans to deliver exercise referral, falls prevention, cardiac and cancer rehabilitation activities as well as accessible activities such as sensory swim sessions, free disability helper access and fully accessible Changing Places in the new centres.

A public consultation on the council's overall budget showed 51 of the 650 comments were about leisure, including one that said the new pools 'seemed a luxury compared to basic needs such as adult social care’.

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