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Serving the Community since 1977
Bollington Health & Leisure has been a feature of the village since 1977. A well known and successful community facility, not many people realise that it operates as an independent charity and is managed by a volunteer Board of Management with assets controlled by a volunteer Board of Directors. 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, river 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, the members of which supported the venture for more than 30 years until its closure in 2014.
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. 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 were honoured earlier this year when Rebecca Adlington chose Bollington to sit her swimming teaching qualification under the watchful eye of Steven Hurst.
Over the last thirty six 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. 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.
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 preschool children aged 6 month to teenagers, including special needs lessons, swimming clubs, lifesaving classes, school swimming, adult lesson and special populations such as young stroke survivors). In addition to this the Centre facilitates over 1000 gym members, over 30 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 36 years, emphasising the need for this facility and, as the Centre now in its fourth decade, demonstrating a fitting tribute to all volunteers who have sacrificed time and energy for the benefit of the community.
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The Coronavirus pandemic has had a catastrophic effect on the leisure industry, mainly due to reduction in numbers allowed in each activity. As a result Bollington Health & Leisure will be hosting a number of fundraising activities over the coming months. Please watch this space and support us where you can.
A private Limited Company Registered in England & Wales: Number 8119494
A Registered Charity Number 1151326