Decision details

Leisure Facilities Investment Strategy Report

Decision Maker: Tourism, Communities, Culture & Leisure Committee

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: Yes

Is subject to call in?: Yes


This report provides Committee with a proposed Facility Investment Strategy for Leisure Services that reflects the importance placed on the provision of quality, community-based facilities providing sport and physical activities that contribute towards positive health and social outcomes for Wirral residents as identified in the Wirral Plan.


The Strategy will provide the Council with the opportunity to develop new and refurbished community facilities, designed with and for the needs of the local community and in most cases housed with co-located services, in order to deliver broader outcomes that are fundamental to the successful delivery of the outcomes of the Wirral Plan and to ensure the longer-term financial sustainability of the Council. Having been jointly commissioned with Sport England, and produced by leading Leisure Consultants, Knight Kavanagh Page (KKP), the Facility Investment Strategy sets out the plan to deliver a combination of new and refurbished leisure facilities and community hubs for Wirral Council. It builds on the Council’s strategic direction of travel as set out in the following strategic documents;


· Creating an Active Wirral 2026 (Appendix 1)


· Sport England Strategic Outcome Planning Diagnostic Report (Appendix 2)


· Wirral Council Playing Pitch and Open Space Strategy (Appendix 7)


· Environment and Climate Emergency Policy


· Medium Term Financial Strategy Along with the evidence base developed as part of the Indoor and Built Sports Facilities Strategy (Appendix 6).


The strategy is also presented in the context of the Council’s need to achieve financial stability as highlighted through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities external assurance review published in November 2021. The strategy seeks to provide a long-term investment approach that modernises and rationalises the Council estate, taking away the need for subsidy and leading to revenue savings and better outcomes for residents. The Facilities Investment Strategy contains an accurate, detailed summary showing the current state of leisure facilities, includes proposals in respect of the component parts and shape of all future leisure facilities in the Borough, provides fully validated recommendations and proposals which explicitly detail where future leisure facilities within the Authority should be located (considering and agreeing the preferred option for all existing/new sites), the rationale for them individually and collectively, their scale, scope, relationship to the communities served, to each other and to other sport, leisure, cultural and community facilities.


Also contained within the Investment Strategy is high-level cost forecasting detailing the estimated revenue cost/surplus generating potential, and capital cost (including lifecycle costs) of all future leisure facilities in the Borough – in the form of cost summaries and projections - detailing what to invest in, where, why and in what order.


The Strategy is aligned to the priorities of the Wirral Plan 2026:


· Active and healthy lives


· Safe and pleasant communities


· Sustainable environment


· Brighter futures


· Inclusive economy


The Investment Strategy also builds on the wider regeneration aspirations of the Council as set out in the Birkenhead 2040 Framework and the new Local Plan 2021-2037 Submission Draft. Specifically, the strategy builds on and will inform the emerging regeneration masterplan proposals at Seacombe River Corridor, Central Birkenhead, Wirral Waters and West Kirby Town Centre.


This report is a key decision as it affects Wards within the Borough


Resolved – that



(1) the Leisure Facilities Investment Strategy be deferred to a future meeting of the Committee and that a workshop be arranged by the Director of Neighbourhood Services to enable Members of the Committee to consider the proposals further.


(2) the Director of Neighbourhood Services and Director of Regeneration and Place be authorised to develop proposals within the context of regeneration master plans currently under preparation. Business cases are to be presented at a future meeting of this committee.


Reasons for the decision:

On 18 January 2022, the Council’s Tourism, Culture, Communities and Leisure Committee approved the 5-year strategy, “Creating an Active Wirral, A Sport and Physical Activity Strategy for Wirral”, which provided an overview of the collaborative process, needs analysis and strategic priorities required to increase sport and activity levels in the borough to deliver a reduction in health and social inequalities.


The key focus of the strategy is to set out the priorities for sport and leisure facilities, services and activities and seeks to redress the balance between being a provider of facilities and tackling inequality through preventative, outreach, and early intervention work.

Alternative options considered:

Not to progress with the transformation of leisure facilities. This option was discounted on the basis that to meet its health, social, commercial and climate emergency aims, objectives and outcomes, the Council will need to act now to address the condition of its failing estate. Given the Council’s current financial position and agreement to ensure it can maintain future financial sustainability, to continue with the current level of operating costs would not be economic or provide value for money. To this end, doing nothing is not an option.


The Council could consider a programme of investment to upgrade its Leisure facilities. This option could see distinct programmes of facility improvement on a site-by-site basis funded through capital works to address conditions identified within survey reports. This approach however would not provide a long-term sustainable solution to delivering those outcomes in 2.1 (above).


The Facilities Investment Strategy identifies sites both in the wrong physical locations to achieve these outcomes, and sites affected by the Council’s long term regeneration plans. It is therefore crucial that the age of and legacy issues associated with the estate are considered as a long-term programme of activity providing a complementary solution to the place shaping ambitions of the Borough. The assumed additional income generated from the cost of the investment would not be sufficient to outweigh the cost, therefore creating a pressure on the council’s budget which is not viable.


Implement all recommendations immediately as contained in the Facilities Investment Strategy. This option was discounted due to the financial and resource implications of trying to address a significant number of major projects simultaneously. Furthermore, if the social and corporate challenges are addressed in a joined-up approach, it is critical that every facility is considered relative to the needs of the communities it serves, and other services within that community. It is essential that Leisure Services does not act as in silo, disconnected from other partners and services that could collectively provide an additional level of synergy across neighbourhoods, and that this opportunity is used to create local, effective and connected facilities delivering the health and social outcomes highlighted within the Wirral Plan.

Publication date: 20/06/2022

Date of decision: 16/06/2022

Decided at meeting: 16/06/2022 - Tourism, Communities, Culture & Leisure Committee

Effective from: 24/06/2022

Accompanying Documents: