Next stage of state-of-the-art locality hub and elite rugby performance centre to be presented to cabinet
A report setting out the next steps of an ambitious partnership project between St Helens Borough Council and St Helens R.F.C. for a state-of-the-art leisure complex in Parr will be presented to cabinet next week.
Article date: 23 November 2022
In June 2021, the council commissioned a feasibility study to investigate the viability of replacing Parr Swimming and Fitness Centre with a multi-purpose locality hub alongside a new Saints training centre that would focus on improving health and wellbeing outcomes for residents from the local area and across the borough.
The feasibility report has explored the different design options available to the council for a new locality hub - which could include a swimming pool, gym and soft play - as well as an elite rugby performance centre with external training pitches for use by Saints and the wider public which would be one of the highest quality rugby league training facilities in the world.
The cabinet report recommends moving forward to the second stage of the commissioning process to outline a business case that will develop architectural concepts, firm up partners' involvement, and fully scope out the range of facilities that could be developed on the site. The next stage will also explore how the council can build a new facility that meets the public needs and aspirations, provides good value for money, and considers environmental impact.
With ambitions for the project high and it now clear that the current Ashcroft Street site is beyond economic repair and would not meet future aspirations, the much larger Parr Stocks Playing Fields site to the east will now be considered as a more suitable location for the future development. To reduce costs and improve the area while the commissioning stage is underway, the council has allocated more than £1m in capital funding for the demolition of the existing Ashcroft Street building.
St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, Councillor Anthony Burns, said:
"The replacement of the former Parr swimming pools and fitness centre offers the opportunity for us to develop a locality hub to serve the needs of some of the borough's most disadvantaged communities to support the delivery of the Active Lives Strategy, and who better to go into partnership with than Saints, a world-class sports team who are terrific ambassadors for the borough.
"Here in our borough, almost 70 per cent of adults and 37 per cent of children are overweight or obese which can lead to serious health impacts.
"By making this investment, we are investing in the wellbeing of local residents and tackling health inequalities which in turn will help to take pressure off other vital services at a time when budgets are stretched."
Mike Rush, Chief Executive of Saints, said: "We are extremely excited about this new training centre and the facilities proposed. The elite environment will hugely benefit our professional athletes. We are champions on the field, but we continue to strive to be champions off it and a new, improved, world class training facility can only help us achieve more success as a Club.
"We are also pleased to be working alongside the council to ensure the facility benefits the most disadvantaged communities. If we can get more young people involved in exercise, in an inspiring facility, then we are going to have a better chance of un-earthing and developing the likes of the next James Roby's, Jonny Lomax's, Emily Rudge's and Jodie Cunningham's of the world."
During the past few years, the council has made a number of investments in its leisure services including a £4.2m redevelopment to transform Newton-le-Willows Health and fitness into a modern, dynamic facility; a refurbished sports hall at Queens Park Leisure Centre as well as a new outdoor 3G football pitch at Sutton Leisure Centre.
The council also remains committed to exploring all opportunities to upgrade Sutton Leisure Centre, which includes bringing the pool back into use - however, the current financial climate, escalating cost of borrowing and significantly increased building costs have led to unavoidable and significant delays. The situation is under constant review and further updates will be provided in due course.
The Parr Leisure and Locality Hub and Rugby League Training Centre Stage B Feasibility Report will be heard at a cabinet meeting in St Helens Town Hall on Wednesday 30 November. To watch the meeting from 4:00pm, go to: https://sthelens.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcasts