Freedom Leisure appointed as new leisure operator

Published : 07/10/2019

Ashford Borough Council (ABC) has appointed Freedom Leisure as the new operator to run the main leisure facilities in the borough.

The move will see a significant investment in leisure facilities and a transformation in the way they are provided, which will boost participation and improve the health and wellbeing of residents of the borough.

The investment in leisure provision will include the remodelling of the ‘dry side’ of the Stour Centre, bringing the facilities there up to the standard of the original remodelling completed in 2007. The facilities at the Julie Rose Stadium will also be improved.

Last year ABC and Ashford Leisure Trust (ALT) started the search for a new leisure operator to transform the way leisure facilities are provided in the area to meet the needs of Ashford’s growing population.

Since then applications have been assessed by the Partnership Board and Freedom Leisure have been chosen as the successful provider. They are likely to take over day to day operation of the facilities next year.

As part of the new arrangements ALT will step back from the future management of the operation of the Stour Centre, Julie Rose Stadium and other leisure sites owned by the council, allowing the council to enter into a contract directly with Freedom Leisure.

ALT will now focus its time on fulfilling its charitable objectives of improving the health and wellbeing of the residents of Ashford, with a particular focus on those who are in disadvantaged groups or with health challenges.

new leisure operator for Ashford Borough Council

In the meantime it is very much business as usual at the town's leisure sites, with no impact on services or customers. ALT employees will be transferred across to Freedom Leisure and were informed this week.

Cllr Peter Feacey, Ashford Borough Council said: “This is a fantastic opportunity to provide first-rate leisure facilities for our residents. As the borough continues to grow, we feel passionately that our leisure offer must evolve to meet demand and expectation and ensure Ashford remains active.

“We would like to thank the volunteer trustees for their time and effort in procuring a new leisure operator with us and we are excited in working with Freedom Leisure to provide active recreation and healthy lifestyles and enhancing the leisure offer for everyone in the borough.”

David Hill, ALT Trustee, said: “The Trustees are very proud of the legacy that ALT has in Ashford and want to thank all ALT staff for their commitment and loyalty. We're very excited about the Trust's new focus and looking forward to making a real impact on the quality of life for Ashford residents.” 

Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director for Freedom Leisure, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been selected as Ashford Borough Council’s leisure partner. With so many councils seeing ever reducing budgets, Freedom Leisure is here to operate leisure facilities on behalf of its partners so that these wonderful local centres remain vibrant.

“We’re really looking forward to working with the existing workforce and supporting them to build upon the current high quality services. We hope that our operational expertise coupled with this local approach mean that the services will go from strength-to-strength in support of the objectives we share with the council – a healthy, happy Ashford.”

The new lease is for 15 years with an option to extend this by a further five years.

Freedom Leisure will manage the day-to-day running of the Stour Centre, Julie Rose Stadium, Conningbrook Lakes and other leisure sites owned by the council including Spearpoint Recreation Ground pavilion, football pitches and tennis courts.