New era for Dales leisure centres

On Wednesday 1 August not-for-profit leisure trust, Freedom Leisure, started its 10-year contract with Derbyshire Dales District Council, to operate its four leisure facilities.

All staff members previously employed by the council will transfer over to the new employer, with some new roles also planned in the coming months.

On the morning of the first a Freedom Leisure mobilisation team moved in to Bakewell Swimming Pool, Arc Leisure Matlock, Ashbourne Leisure Centre and Wirksworth Leisure Centre to support staff with the transfer; including installation of IT infrastructures and implementation of new operating procedures, as well as set up of membership services.

Freedom Leisure’s Operations Director, Matt Hunt, and Head of Operations for the Wales and West, Jeremy Rowe met with Cllr Lewis Rose OBE, Council Leader and Paul Wilson, Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service, to formally mark the start of the new contract. They were joined by Councillors, Joyce Pawley and Steve Flitter at Arc Leisure Matlock and by Peter Slack and Steve Flitter at Ashbourne Leisure Centre – along with centre staff proudly showing off their new uniform, and Freedom Leisure’s mascot, Jim Trainer!

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Together the two partners have committed to a total investment of £1.6m to help improve and modernise the facilities, with highlights including a new 3-tier soft play activity centre, new and improved studios, virtual group exercise offerings and new gym kit. In addition they will be making the centres more environmentally efficient – in a bid to save water, create less waste, recycle more waste and try and save around 150 tons of CO2 a year!

On the morning Matt Hunt said:

“After being awarded the contract back in May we are delighted to finally be at the helms of these much loved community facilities and to welcome our new colleagues on board. It is our aspiration to deliver a locally-focused service which caters for the needs of all local residents to help them be more active.”

Councillor Rose said:

“While this arrangement saves local Council Tax payers around £5-million over the life of the contract, this is much more than a money saving exercise. Freedom Leisure are undoubtedly geared to provide a better service for the residents of the Derbyshire Dales than we can do ourselves.

“They have an excellent track record of working with the local community and today we are joining forces with an organisation that has a much broader approach, more resources and is generally in th

e business of operating leisure centres, so it's a win-win situation.

“We thoroughly tested their proposal and now look forward to a really exciting partnership with a first class leisure services provider.”

Labour Group Leader on the District Council, Councillor Mike Ratcliffe said:

“The out-sourcing of a local authority service provision is never an easy decision but with continuing government funding reductions the transfer of our leisure centres to Freedom Leisure was unanimously agreed. I have no doubt that this move will help maintain healthy and active communities across Derbyshire Dales.”

Liberal Democrat Group Leader Councillor Steve Flitter said:

“At the moment Freedom Leisure are in a better position to create a first class service for visitors and residents alike because of the financial pressures on local government. I wish them well and look forward to a stable working relationship securing leisure facilities for the coming decade.”

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For further details visit with more information about developments released in due time.


On Wednesday 1 August not-for-profit leisure trust, Freedom Leisure, started its 10-year contract with Derbyshire Dales District Council, to operate its four leisure facilities.

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