Stocksbridge Community Leisure Centre is a typical 1970’s built sprawling sports centre in a town that grew out of its steel works. In April 2013 Sheffield Council closed it citing its unprofitability as a reason to bulldoze it for housing. Locals organised a campaign and demonstrations to get it passed into community hands and succeeded in getting the keys handed over that summer. Passion was not enough though to get the place up and running; the community realised that its breadth of skills – from business plan writing, to engineering, plumbing and just painting and cleaning – was needed to bring this run-down centre back to life.
It re-opened its doors to the public in January 2014 and the main pool came into operation again in April 2016 following a grant from Power to Change. Our £307,675 went towards a series of energy efficiency equipment including:
- 300 solar panels on the roof of the leisure centre to generate power to heat the water and the air in the swimming pools.
- An air handling unit to recoup and re-cycle heat lost from the building.
- Double glazing in the pool areas for insulation.
- Refurbishment and upgrading of the pool filters and control systems.
Once up and running the result was that the efficiencies gained halved the leisure centre’s energy bills which brought its operation into surplus. It used to take 1,200 kilowatts of heat to run it at a level that was comfortable; they now need to buy in only 500 kilowatts on annual basis.
Now that the finances are on an even keel, energy has been devoted to adapting the service offering at the leisure centre to meet the needs of locals first and foremost. For example, the programme of swimming classes has brought families back whilst the arrival of the University of the Third Age has encouraged those who have retired to stay active and healthy. Next steps are to improve accessibility for members of the community with disabilities, quite a challenge given that was not a priority when it was built in the 1970s.
Community health and wellbeing
With the closure of the leisure centre, the community would have had to travel 30 minutes by car to gain access to public sports facilities. Now they have back a broad and increasing range of different sports including squash and indoor bowls as well as a fitness suite and swimming.
Broad community impact
Once the community got the keys back from the local authority, an army of 300 volunteers worked round the clock to get it open again. A hard core of 50 volunteers work at the centre on a regular basis.
Trading for the benefit of the local community
When the local authority closed Stocksbridge they claimed that staff salaries alone ate up all the revenue. Now the community has taken over, the centre runs at a surplus. What’s more, it is now the largest community run leisure centre in the country.