£5m pilot plan announced as refurbished leisure centre in Risca is opened
12:33pm Friday 25th October 2013 in Gwent news
PLANS to pilot a new £5 million loan scheme for local sports and leisure facilities were announced at the official opening of the recently renovated Risca Leisure Centre.
The refurbished leisure centre was officially opened by the Culture and Sport Minister, John Griffiths, earlier this week.
Mr Griffiths also announced that a new £5m interest-free loan scheme to support local authorities in developing sport and leisure facilities in Wales will be piloted from April 2015.
Risca Leisure Centre, which has received a £300,000 makeover, is a good example of how an existing facility can be enhanced to encourage more people to be physically active, according to the Minister.
Newport East AM Mr Griffiths said: “We know how important it is for people across Wales to have excellent facilities like this one in Risca to encourage them to be physically active and we want to see more of this type of facility in all parts of Wales.
“We are working closely with local authorities and the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) on the details of the scheme, but it will encourage collaboration and different approaches to the provision and management of facilities. It will also support innovative ideas to use our natural environment and to place facilities where they are needed most.”
The scheme, which has received a £5m allocation in the Welsh Government’s draft budget for 2015-16, will help local authorities in Wales to improve the quality of their leisure facilities through providing interest-free loans.
Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Local Government and Government Business, said: “Over the summer, I visited several Local Authority leisure facilities across Wales, including Risca Leisure Centre.
“Some were shared school and community facilities, whilst others were run by social enterprises. However, what they all had in common is they are supporting communities to maintain and develop much valued sporting and community activities and supporting people to improve their health and fitness, therefore reducing the burden on the NHS.
“This investment will ensure Authorities can invest in facilities to allow them to make savings on their running costs for the future.”
Hedley McCarthy, the WLGA spokesperson for leisure and leader of Blaenau Gwent council, said: “Local government faces the most challenging economic climate in its history, and it is clear that the only way to ensure that we can continue to deliver local leisure services and facilities in Wales is through developing innovative approaches to how these services are delivered.”
The refurbishment in Risca has included an extended fitness suite complete with an improved and wide selection of the latest training equipment and a new health suite, accessible from poolside, which boasts a sauna and steam room. The centre has also seen the installation of a new swimming pool viewing gallery and has seen an almost 120 per cent increase in membership between October 2011 and October 2013.
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