Refurbishing community-run leisure centres

Co-operative & Community Finance is working with other funders to finance refurbishment at two community-managed leisure centres in Kent.

Sencio Community Leisure is a community benefit society set up in 2003 to run three leisure centres and a golf course on behalf of Sevenoaks District Council. The transfer from local authority control has allowed access to more finance options. Currently the organisation is involved in developing and refurbishing a number of facilities at their sites including extending the health and fitness suite at the Sevenoaks centre and the replacement of water flumes at White Oak leisure centre. These projects are being funded by loans from Co-operative & Community Finance, Big Issue Invest and the local authorities.

Violette Saad, Finance Manager of Sencio Community Leisure, said: “The leisure centres are very popular and at Sevenoaks in particular the gym and dance studio sometimes cannot cope with demand. It is often overcrowded and people have to wait to use the equipment. With this new funding we intend to refurbish the existing facilities and create a second gym and studio at Sevenoaks. The work should be finished in October.”

Over the last 20 years a number of local authorities have ‘externalised’ their leisure services by setting up trusts. Today about 30% of public leisure centres in the UK are run by trusts. Sencio Community Leisure generates over £4.5m from its four sites which are used by more than 4,000 people a year.

Violette Saad said: “When I started here the trust had already been operating for a few years, so I don’t know personally what it was like before. But I believe that our staff and the public are much happier with the trust management.”

Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We are pleased to have helped pull together a funding package that will greatly improve the facilities. It is clear that these community-run leisure centres are popular with the public, and I think this is due to the commitment, enthusiasm and helpfulness of the staff who make a point of engaging with customers.”