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image for news article entitled Stour Centre to close ahead of major refurbishment

Stour Centre to close ahead of major refurbishment

Last updated 31 July 2020

The Stour Centre Leisure Centre in Ashford is set to remain closed, ahead of a major refurbishment and works programme, which will significantly improve the leisure offer of the centre from mid next year.

The council in partnership with Freedom Leisure, who will take over the running of the centre in September, will be investing £6.5m for the Stour Centre, transforming tired features and providing new spaces to boost participation and improve the health and wellbeing of residents.

The changes include an extended gym with new equipment, a new soft play and clip and climb and dedicated café area, improved reception and access to the existing seating area, new leisure pool features targeted at younger children and major redecoration throughout including the dry and wet changing areas.

Cllr Matthew Forest, portfolio holder for Culture, Tourism and Leisure at Ashford Borough Council, said: “As the borough continues to grow, we feel passionately that our leisure offer must evolve to meet demand and expectation and ensure Ashford remains active.

“The complete closure of the Stour Centre enables substantial works to be finished much, much sooner, rather than a drawn out programme of disruption for contractors and more importantly the public. It takes advantage of what is an uncertain and potentially restrictive use of the facilities for groups, members and customers, given the continued pressure of managing COVID-19. We will be contacting regular user groups to support them find alternative facilities where possible.

“Sadly the closure does mean redundancies for Ashford Leisure Trust (ALT) staff, which is very unfortunate. However, some staff will be redeployed to provide fitness sessions at Julie Rose Stadium, which will be expanding its activities and gym facilities on offer to help lessen the impact.”

Subject to Full Council approval on Thursday 16 July the centre will close for around a year, with the anticipated reopening date being around mid-2021.

Without closing the centre the works were expected to take around 9 months longer, with disruption throughout this period until March 2022. 

Last year ABC and Ashford Leisure Trust (ALT) started the search for a new leisure operator to transform the way leisure facilities are provided in the area and to meet the needs of Ashford’s growing population.

Freedom Leisure will take over from ALT, the day-to-day running of the Stour Centre, Julie Rose Stadium, Conningbrook Lakes and Spearpoint Recreation Ground pavilion, football pitches and tennis courts from 1 September.

As part of the new arrangements ALT will step back from the future management and will now focus its time on fulfilling its charitable objectives of improving the health and wellbeing of the residents of Ashford, with a particular focus on those who are in disadvantaged groups or with health challenges.

Freedom Leisure is a not-for-profit leisure trust which manages leisure and cultural facilities on behalf of partners across the UK.

Freedom Leisure Managing Director Ivan Horsfall Turner said: “We are exciting to be working in partnership with Ashford Borough Council on this fantastic £6.5 million project to transform the Stour Centre. Getting started early will accelerate the reopening of the centre to provide a vastly improved leisure facility.”