Bollington Health & Leisure - Serving the Community for over 40 Years
Bollington Health & Leisure will celebrate its 40th year of operation this year in 2017. A well known and successful community facility, not many people realise that it operates as an independent charity and limited company by guarantee and is managed by a volunteer Board of Management who meet twice a month with assets controlled by a volunteer Board of Trustees/directors who meet quarterly . Both boards are comprised of 8 people , 4 of whom are common to both boards. How the Centre came to be organised in this way is an intriguing story.
In the early 1970’s, Social Services students from Manchester University undertook a project on behalf of the then Bollington Urban District Council to determine what social and leisure facilities were most desired by the residents of Bollington. Being surrounded by water, with a canal, rivers and several mill ponds, the overwhelming interest from this survey was for a swimming pool to make children water aware. The Urban District Council provided a site and a voluntary fund raising committee was established to raise the capital cost of construction.
There followed a varied programme of Dances in the Scout Hut, Socials, It’s a Knockout on the Recreation Ground, a Buy-A-Brick campaign to which a huge number of families contributed, Boxing Dinner Shows and a host of other fund raising activities by individuals and groups. The green agenda started early in Bollington with one family organising the collection and recycling of waste paper every weekend for several years. A 500-Club was also set up with many members having supported the venture for more than 30 years.
All went well, designs were drawn up and sufficient funds were raised to build the swimming pool. With a large proportion of the people of Bollington and the surrounding area having contributed money, time and expertise, the new facility would truly be ‘Built by the Community, for the Community’.
Before the start of construction, the project was dealt a major blow when local government was reorganised in 1974 and Bollington lost its Urban District status. The original intention was for the Fund Raising Committee to meet the capital costs of construction and then for the Urban District Council to undertake operation and management of the swimming pool. But with responsibility for all public leisure activities passing to Macclesfield Borough Council, a review of sports and leisure facilities determined that there was no need for another swimming pool to meet the requirements of the Borough as a whole.
After more than five years of hard fund raising, this came as a body blow to the volunteer committee. However, with the support of the renamed Bollington Town Council, who have been solidly behind the project throughout the period from inception to today, it was agreed that construction should continue and, if necessary, the management would have to be provided by a volunteer committee. The building plans were modified to provide a smaller pool according to the budget available from fund raising and a ground-breaking ceremony was held in May 1976.
It was well known that no public swimming pool in the country operated at a profit and so the next major hurdle was to find a way to cover the expected deficit. Squash was emerging as a fast growing sport and this was quickly identified as the potential saviour of the project. Fund raising activities therefore continued with a view to providing four squash courts and
with the expectation that squash would subsidise swimming. At this time, there was a three year waiting list to join local Squash Clubs and the four Bollington courts took the total number of courts in the area from seven to eleven. A Health Studio was also added to complete this stage of the development.
Such was the growing popularity of Squash that, within just a few years, there were 55 courts in the area. Fund raising also became more difficult as a result of both the protracted time period and the fact that the Centre had actually been built. Much of the Squash and Health Studio developments were therefore financed by commercial loans.
From the beginning, the Centre honoured the original commitment with the Urban District Council to provide a high proportion of public and school swimming. By the mid-1980s, however, with growing costs of maintenance and a declining demand for squash, it became impossible to break-even financially. With the support and encouragement of the MP and many people in both elected and full-time local government, efforts were made to secure grant aid to subsidise the public use of the Centre. However, when it became clear in 1986 that no further public funds would be available to the Centre, there was no alternative but to close the Leisure Centre, and to make all the staff redundant.
The dogged determination which had enabled the Centre to be built ten years earlier, quickly came into play. Such was the resolve of the Trustees and the Managers, that the Centre was able to rise again, like a phoenix from the ashes, and re-opened its doors two weeks later. A new business plan was devised, with much of the public swimming time given over to teaching. This proved to be the turning point, with the Centre quickly establishing an outstanding reputation in the North West for swimming teaching. In 2003 the Centre achieved an Amateur Swimming Association Aquamark Award and was one of only four Centres in the whole of the UK to gain this accreditation. Furthermore, the centre now holds 3 Swim21 awards for excellence in learn to swim programming, school swimming teaching and for its swimming club. Today, more than 2000 children are enrolled on swimming courses which start as early as 8.00 am with some classes running until 8.00 pm. More than 50 swimming instructors ensure the continued reputation as a centre of excellence for swimming teaching is maintained. We are also a centre of excellence for training lifeguards , training swim teachers and special needs teaching.
We were honoured in 2013 when Rebecca Adlington chose Bollington to sit her swimming teaching qualification under the watchful eye of Steve Hurst our then Centre manager.
Over the last thirty years, squash has declined; a lottery grant of £116,000 in 1995 financed further development; and a state of the art gymnasium has been developed in association with Competition Line.
Competition Line also known as Lifestyle Fitness as was founded by a very enthusiastic and passionate Swede , Carl Gripenstedt in 1982. His vision was that “the very best in fitness should be available to everybody at an affordable price” We were one of Carls first gyms, when we converted 2 of the original 4 squash courts . They now operate on 53 sites in the UK with over 100,000 members. The agreement with Competition Line is that they provide all the equipment and the gym revenue is split in an income share agreement. The gym has gone from strength to strength , with currently 1200 members. Although we have “members” it is not an membership club, there is no joining fee and anyone can pay on a one off session basis.
Having had a 20 years successful track record with Competition Line with very good retention figures Carl agreed a few years ago to rebuild and extend our gym at a cost of over £1m which was completed in November 2015. We now boast one of the best gyms in the North West. Tragically Carl died aged 59 on a business trip to Finland and never saw the completion of the Bollington project. We have a photo of Carl and a cast of his family crest on display in the gym to preserve his memory and vision.
The Centre now also boasts a health spa, fitness and dance classes, beauty and massage therapies, a children’s soft play area. The most amazing turn around is that swimming now subsidises squash!
In addition to sporting activities Bollington Health & Leisure provides facilities for many organisations, two examples of which are, The ALEX Project and The Meet Move & Improve Group, catering for those with Parkinson’s disease and stroke survivors respectively to enjoy water based, group exercise and other leisure activities in a warm and comfortable environment. We also have an agreement with the Medical Centre in Bollington whereby the doctors and practice nurses can prescribe exercise through the GP Referral Scheme. Patients then come to us to undergo a carefully tailored programme to enable them to become fitter .
The initial prescribed period is for 3 months at a heavily discounted price .
Over the last year we have further invested £180,000 in refurbishing the 3 swimming changing rooms helped by a £50K Wren grant. With a 2500 bodies a week footfall thro the changing rooms they get some hammer. The spa has also been recently refurbished in December 2016 with a new sauna and steam room , along with the centre being painted , new carpets, new outside block paving, re white lining the car park, building a new rubbish compound . We are totally self sufficient in so far as we receive no outside funding/grants other than the 20% discretionary rates relief from CEC.
What does the future hold and forward plans .
Currently we are in the process of acquiring a 50 year lease on the land we sit on along with the Atax field and the Leisure Centre football pitch. CEC is transferring the land to BTC on a 125 year lease, now in the hands of the legal people, once this is complete BTC will sub lease the land to BHL.
We are then working with BUJFC to redevelop the Atax field , creating 3 junior size pitches so that the 22 junior teams can have more and better facilities.
BH&L purchased the sheep field at the back of the Atax field in November 2015 to facilitate this project and currently we are in talks with Cheshire FA to obtain funds from them along with the 106 monies from Kay Metzler to enable the project to progress .
We must emphasise the superb involvement of our highly trained staff. Without them we would not be where we are today. A recent satisfaction survey of our users resulted in 80% of responses citing our helpful , caring and friendly staff as the number one factor in giving the centre the reputation it has today.
As this document details, the Centre has been able to continually evolve throughout its lifetime and now is proud to facilitate 2000 swimmers a week on lessons (from mothers to be, toddlers, children, swimming clubs , schools, special needs , to senior participation) , an additional 500 swimmers on school swimming lessons, 1200 gym members, over 60 exercise classes each week, two competition standard squash courts, a soft play area for under 5’s, beauty, holistic and remedial treatments, training for lifeguards and swimming teachers and a nurturing, support structure for its staff, some of which are as young as 15. This could not have been accomplished without the use and support of local people throughout the last 40 years, emphasising the need for this facility and, as the Centre now entering its fifth decade, demonstrating a fitting tribute to all volunteers who have sacrificed time and energy for the benefit of the community.
Some key facts, aims and objectives –
Bollington Leisure Centre was opened in 1977 by the people of Bollington.
In 2010 it became Bollington Health & Leisure
It is a registered charity .
It is a limited company by guarantee
It has taught around 40,000 + people to swim.
It employs over 75 people, full time, part time and casual.
Aims and Objectives
To teach the children of Bollington and surrounding areas to swim and enjoy water safely.
To provide affordable, high quality sports, health and leisure facilities to the community.
So far we've raised £75,746
Towards our on-going projects
Did you know we’re a charity?
It’s true, we’ve been serving the local community since 1977 and today we are able to provide a gym for over 1500 members, exercise and leisure facilities for hundreds more and renowned swimming classes to thousands of children every week.
None of this could happen without the support of everyone in the local community.
A private Limited Company Registered in England & Wales: Number 8119494
A Registered Charity Number 1151326