Agenda item

Operation of Leisure Facilities at Dereham and Thetford

Report by the Leisure Services Manager.


The Leisure Services Manager introduced the report which provided an update on the operation of the Dereham and Thetford Leisure Centres from April 2007.  The report provided an overview of usage and demand together with a summary of issues concerning residual design.


With regard to the height of the fencing at the Multi-Use Games Area this had been found to be inadequate with balls being inadvertently being kicked into neighbouring properties.  However, the costs associated with replacing the fencing would lie with Parkwood Leisure and this issue was currently being discussed.


There had been some instances at Dereham Leisure Centre of children sustaining minor cuts and abrasions to their feet.  As a consequence the teaching pool had been drained and a detailed inspection undertaken.  It was found that whilst the tiles were the correct specification they may have been too abrasive and action was undertaken to sand them down.  This work was undertaken over a two week period during August. During this time the temperature in the main pool was increased and the shallow end used as an alternative to the teaching pool. As other Councils had encountered similar problems the issue would be reported to professional bodies such as the Institute of Sport and Recreation Management in order to ensure that future problems could be avoided.


The competition timing system at Dereham Leisure Centre had caused some concern with regard to the location of the socket plugs.  The suppliers of the system were currently investigating various options relating to redesigning the plugs and a form of cover for the system.


There had been some demand for a sauna to be provided at Dereham Leisure Centre.  Whilst this was a low priority Parkwood Leisure had agreed to consider a proposal after the first year of operation subject to continuing demand.


In response to Members’ queries the Leisure Services Manager in conjunction with the Sports Development Officer provided the following information:-


·              The temperatures at the pools in Thetford and Dereham were set by health and safety legislation.  As Dereham Pool was a regional competition pool this was set lower than normal pools.  It was understood that the pool temperatures could not be set to please everybody.

·              Leisure Cards were launched on the 10 May 2007 and had been successful.  At present card were offered at a lower cost for people receiving disability benefit or income support.  Parkwood Leisure ran the scheme and would not be offering the cards to people receiving other forms of benefit such as Working Tax Credits at this time.

·              With regard to the bowls facilities at Dereham and Thetford the uptake at Thetford had increased with youth sessions being programmed.  The role of the club was vital to provide a central platform but there needed to be an understanding that there was an element of open access with pay and play sessions.  It was felt that the rules at Thetford Bowling Club were quite rigid with strict dress codes which may not be suitable for younger players.

·              At present the parent to child ratio for the pool was set at one parent to one child under five and one parent to two children who were between five and eight.  This meant that if parents had more than two children under the age of five they were unable to go swimming as a family. To assist families with young children a scheme was currently being considered which involved a basic swim test for children under five.  If the child passed this test they would be given a certificate which the parents would produce which would exempt the child from the parent to child ratio.

·              It was understood that certain schools were using the pool at Swanton Morley.  This may have been as a result of child protection issues at Dereham Leisure Centre.  However, signs were now displayed warning that no photographs could be taken and section of the changing rooms had been cordoned off for school parties.  Further to this the reception area was monitored by CCTV.  All the schools within the catchment area were pre-allocated swimming lesson slots but it was entirely up to the school if they wished to use the pool.

·              The admission figures had varied considerably at the Leisure Centres between May and June as many schools were provided with free swim vouchers and this was during the school holidays.

·              It was expected that the Best Value Performance Indicators would improve considerably with the completion of the new leisure facilities.

·              The Camp Adventure Holiday Play Schemes had been very successful both in Dereham and in Theftford and attendance had been good in Swaffham.  However, take-up had been poor in Attleborough and the scheme was being changed to concentrate on specialist sports rather than a general play scheme to encourage attendance.  It was noted that the rural play schemes had been very successful and an extra five sports sessions had been provided.  Although most of the village halls had been very helpful some village halls had not been as co-operative.  In response to a Members’ concerns regarding the Camp Adventure Scheme at Swaffham the Sports Development Officer stated that she would investigate the concern with Parkwood Leisure and respond to the Member.

Members agreed that the Sports Development Officer together with the Arts Development Officer had improved the availability of arts and sporting facilities within Breckland.  It was suggested that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission should recommend to Cabinet that the service term of the Arts Development Officer should be extended.

RECOMMEND that the Overview and Scrutiny Commission recommend to Cabinet that the service term of the post of Arts Development Officer be extended.


(1)    the actions taken in relation to the leisure facilities be noted; and

(2)    the provision of the Summer Play Schemes, especially in the rural communities, be commended.

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