The Necessity of Public Consultation

How public consultation can drive innovative leisure centre design

Henry Ford is quoted as saying, “If I had asked the people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

No one asks for something they don’t know exists. In fact, most of the time, people don’t know what they want until you show them. And this is particularly true when it comes to the design of leisure centres. 

Why do we need to regenerate our leisure centres?

There’s no doubt that public leisure facilities need upgrading. According to Sport England, nearly two thirds of leisure centres are outdated. Figures show that up to 63% of sports halls and swimming pools are more than 10 years old, and almost a quarter of all sports halls and swimming pools have not been refurbished in over 20 years.

When it comes to regenerating or replacing sports halls, swimming pools, health and fitness and all the other facilities that leisure centres offer, it’s tempting to replace like for like simply because that’s what was done in the past. But this is a unique opportunity to create a bespoke solution that meets the needs of your location and your community, while attracting new audiences, creating new revenue streams and achieving public health outcomes. Having spent the over 20 years helping local authorities to successfully transform their leisure centres, we know that very often that means doing something different.

“Working recently to support county-wide transformation planning in the North East of England and implementing consultation models on a number of Towns Fund projects, we believe in ensuring that the needs of stakeholders and communities alike are effectively underpinned by sustainable facility modelling in the design process,” says James Foley, Commercial Director for Alliance.

Creating better design with public consultation

We can’t overstate the importance of consulting with your members, target users and the wider community when planning your leisure centre project. Engaging in meaningful public engagement will give you a better understanding of what your community wants from their local leisure centre and allows you to demonstrate how you can innovatively meet their needs.

We know families like to exercise together and we embrace the traditional participation routes such as family swimming or a game of badminton. Few families, however, would think to ask for an interactive climbing wall or a TAGactive adventure zone for their refurbished leisure centre. Or what about adventure in the great outdoors? By investing in innovative activities like these, clients like Denbighshire Leisure and Kirklees Active Leisure have been able to increase dwell time and secondary spend while encouraging more families to be active. Our forte is in truly recognising the benefit of an integrated facilities approach when working with our clients on their regeneration projects.

Likewise, how many Spinning fans would have an immersive group cycling studio on their wish list for their centre upgrade? Featuring a cinema-sized screen, top of the range audio and lighting systems and an immersive cycling workout, these spaces have revolutionised the group cycling experience and have the potential to attract a new and diverse audience to your leisure centre.

Sustainable leisure centre design

Having supported a number of clients through the Covid-19 pandemic, John Leaver, Head of Marketing for TA6 powered by Alliance Leisure, recognises that:

“Public leisure centres are vital assets for our communities, but many are outdated, and the facilities they offer are simply not attractive to modern users. Conducting a meaningful public consultation opens the eyes of your community to the variety of exciting leisure facilities that are available.

This, along with other tools like feasibility studies and demographic mapping, allows us and our trusted partners to develop the right leisure facility for your location and users to help ensure its long-term success.”

We can bring innovation to your project.
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