North Yorkshire Council, now one of the biggest leisure providers in the UK, is considering a major transformation of existing centres to create sport and wellbeing hubs across the county.

The authority has taken control of many different leisure centres due to the coming together of the seven separate district councils in April this year. Members have been told up to £18m is needed to maintain the basic fabric of the existing 19 leisure centres.

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They have 16 swimming pools including ones at Bedale, Northallerton, Thirsk and Stokesley, while the Richmondshire Trust pool is also part of their portfolio. There are three wellbeing hubs and a nursery at Harrogate along with Turkish Baths, and facilities at Scarborough, Ryedale and Selby. In all there are five different operators, with Brimhams Active in Harrogate a wholly owned Local Authority Trading Company.

The aim is to have a phased change over the next four years to create a single in-house management model for the service. Recommendations are gong to members of the transition overview and scrutiny committee on Monday, December 4.

One of the biggest problems for the service is keeping staff, particularly after the pandemic, officers say key to the success of the new model is an upskilled sport and active wellbeing workforce. They say the proposed approach would promote the role physical activity plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, with the idea that this will help cut the dependence on other services run by the local authority.

Executive member for culture, arts and housing, Cllr Simon Myers said: "The strategic leisure review provides us with an exciting opportunity to transform the delivery of our leisure service and improve outcomes for communities across North Yorkshire.

"What we are recommending puts us at the forefront of a national movement to transform services with a renewed focus on physical and mental health and wider well-being."

The report seeks support for a leisure investment strategy, carrying on work already undertaken during recent asset condition surveys at the leisure centres, over the next five years. A council spokesperson added: "This will look at the condition of each site, its future role and sustainability as part of the new delivery model.

"The proposals build on current best practice, expertise and experience and aim to transform leisure centres into sport and active wellbeing hubs. The plan would build stronger links between the facilities, sports development, and locally-based services and activity.

"There would be a particular emphasis on the needs of people who face barriers to participation as well as providing opportunities to work in greater partnership with the NHS, social care and community organisations. The proposed approach would promote the role physical activity plays in promoting a healthy lifestyle, and it is hoped that this would help to reduce pressure on services."

They say feedback from the committee meeting on Monday will be used to shape the final recommendations to be considered by the council’s executive in January.