A DECISION to transform council-led leisure facilities in Craven and across the whole of North Yorkshire to a new sport and active well-being service has been described as a 'very exciting time'.

Councillors have given the go-ahead for the plan which will see a greater focus on health and well-being, providing more opportunities for people to participate and be active and focus on addressing inequalities.

Leisure centres - such as Craven Leisure in Skipton - will be transformed into active well-being hubs operating alongside more locally based services and activities and there will be increased support for community-based sport.

Members of North Yorkshire Council’s executive gave the go-ahead today (Tuesday) for the introduction of a new delivery model, which triggers the start of the next phase of the authority’s strategic leisure review.

Councillors were told that work so far has included input from local communities and sports groups, as well as stakeholders like Sport England and North Yorkshire Sport. A cross-party working group of councillors has also visited sites across the county to help shape the proposals.

Councillor Simon Myers, North Yorkshire Council’s executive member for culture, leisure and housing, and member for Mid-Craven, said: “With one of the largest leisure portfolios in the country we now have the opportunity to transform the way we deliver those services and put us at the forefront of a national movement towards improving physical and mental health and well-being.

“We will be creating a service bespoke to North Yorkshire with locally-based services and targeted provision, with particular emphasis on the needs of groups that may face barriers to participation.

"The UK population is 20 per cent less active than it was in the 1960s and we want to reverse that be providing the high quality, accessible and inclusive services people want, where they want them."

He added: “We also want to work in greater partnership with the NHS and social care providers as we recognise the benefits of physical activity in preventing and managing long term health conditions.

“This is a very exciting time for leisure in North Yorkshire – local government reorganisation has given us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at our expansive portfolio and consolidate the services by building on best practice to create a new sport and active well-being service.”

Currently the council’s leisure portfolio - which includes 19 leisure centres, 16 swimming pools, three well-being hubs, a nursery and Harrogate’s Turkish Baths are run by five different operators.

Those arrangements will be moved to the single in-house model in a phased way – with the aim of the service being fully integrated and transformed by 2028. The first change will be for services in the former Selby district where the contract with IHL comes to an end this year.

The next phase of work is to create a leisure investment strategy, progressing work already undertaken during recent asset condition surveys at the leisure centres. This will look at the condition of each site, their future roles and sustainability as part of the new delivery model and identify sites where investment is needed.