Tripling energy costs force North Kesteven's leisure centre bosses to cut hours

Tripling energy costs are forcing North Kesteven’s leisure centre managers to cut opening hours – in spite of getting free heat from Sleaford’s renewable energy plant.

The pool at Sleaford Leisure Centre. Rising energy costs are forcing bosses to cut back on opening hours.
The pool at Sleaford Leisure Centre. Rising energy costs are forcing bosses to cut back on opening hours.

Sleaford Leisure Centre and Better Gym in East Road, Sleaford, along with One NK at North Hykeham, are operated by GLL, trading as Better, a not-for-profit organisation, on behalf of facility owners North Kesteven District Council.

The council has worked with Better to review the opening hours across its sports and leisure facilities and agreed a temporary reduction across the three sites of 21 hours per week for the winter, from now onwards.

Chris Ord, Partnership Manager at GLL, said: “The recent rises in utility prices have had a huge impact on GLL, both as a not-for-profit organisation and as a leisure operator.

“While utility price rises are a nationwide, cross-sector issue, leisure centres and in particular those with swimming pools, are being disproportionately impacted. In North Kesteven our annual operating costs are up 164 per cent on electric and 233 per cent on gas against 2019.”

He went on: “While we have been doing all we can to reduce our energy consumption,for example by introducing LED bulbs and movement sensors to lighting, installing variable speed drives to pumps and thermal pool covers, we need to take further steps in order to remain viable this winter.

“We have therefore taken the difficult decision to make some small adjustments to our winter timetable, during periods when our leisure facilities are at their quietest – typically opening an hour later or closing an hour earlier on certain days.”

This will see Sleaford Leisure Centre reduce its opening times by six hours per week, Better Gym Sleaford by six hours per week and One NK in Lincoln by seven hours a week.

Better said there will be adjustments to rotas, but the “modest” reduction in hours will have a “minimal impact on staffing”.

Coun Steve Clegg, NKDC Executive Board member for leisure services said: “It is regrettable that the prevailing circumstances have required this action to be taken, but we firmly believe that in the broader interests of the centres’ continued operation it is the right course of action. In other places pools, gyms and leisure provision are being closed fully or cut back to a greater extent so we are very appreciative of the constructive approach being taken by Better to maximise opportunities for continued and cost-effective access to leisure, fitness and sporting opportunities across our sites.”

Coun Clegg said the earlier closures will take place at the end of the night, targeted on specific evenings rather than being across the board and calculated for when user demand is lowest. He said it would lead to a winter saving across the three sites, where energy costs have tripled – despite Sleaford Leisure Centre having the benefit of free heat from the town’s renewable energy plant through the district heating system.

A Better spokesman added that the free heat arrangement is not guaranteed and does not fully mitigate the huge increases in energy costs. “There are significant periods when conventional utilities are needed to heat the pool and power the pumps, etc. The rest of the leisure centre’s lighting and heating and plant machinery uses conventional electricity of gas.”

They insisted that savings made at Sleaford Leisure Centre, a municipal leisure facility, were not being used to subsidise Better Gym Sleaford.

As a charitable social enterprise, Better says it is committed to do all it can to provide a comprehensive service for all customers and communities.

“We would like to apologise for the inconvenience that the changes to our programme may cause you and hope you understand why we have had to take these steps.”

The reduced winter timetable has been effective since Monday, November 28 at:

Better Gym Sleaford

- Centre closing one hour earlier on a Thursday and Friday (8pm)

- Centre closing two hours earlier on a Saturday and Sunday (2pm)

Sleaford Leisure Centre

- Centre closing one hour earlier Monday-Thursday (9pm)

- Centre closing one hour earlier on a Friday (7pm)

One NK

- Swimming Pool closing one hour earlier Monday-Friday (9pm)

- Swimming Pool closing one hour earlier Saturday and Sunday (3pm)

Full details on the revised winter timetable can be found at: https://www.better.org.uk/leisure-centre/north-kesteven.

Visitors are advised to ensure you pre-book your session via the Better UK App to ensure that the session is running and that you have your space reserved.