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SOMERSET: Chard Leisure Centre opens

SOMERSET: Chard Leisure Centre opens

CREDIT: Daniel Mumby.

Chard’s new leisure centre – including a new five-lane swimming pool – is now officially open to the public.

South Somerset District Council has invested around £16m in the new facility in the town centre, which forms the first phase of its flagship Chard regeneration scheme.

The facility was officially opened on Monday morning (November 8) by Commonwealth Games gold medalist Matthew Clay, a former member of Chard Swimming Club.

Around 400 people have already signed up for memberships, with the number expected to grow significantly in the coming weeks.

Here’s everything you need to know about this exciting new facility:

Where is the new leisure centre?

Chard Leisure Centre has been built on the former ACI site off the A358 Silver Street, adjacent to the former Boden Mill.

The site is accessible from Silver Street, as well as through the Boden Street and Marketfield car parks.

The centre is being run on the council’s behalf by Freedom Leisure, under a new 15-year deal which also includes Wincanton Sports Centre and Goldenstones Leisure Yeovil in Yeovil.

Council leader Val Keitch said: “I’m very excited and very relieved – it’s been a long time coming.

“I think it’s an incredible facility – not just for Chard, but for the whole of area west.

“This will bring people into Chard who wouldn’t normally come into the town. From a health and well-being point of view, particularly in light of the last 18 months, I think this will be a real hub for people.”

What does the new facility offer?

Arranged over two storeys, the new leisure centre has a lot of different facilities and equipment for members to use.

On the first floor, there is a bespoke dance and fitness studio for exercise classes, as well a virtual cycling studio, where people can book slots in advance for either individual or group sessions.

The first floor also includes a state-of-the-art gym, with a wide range of equipment for both cardiovascular and muscle training, and members having access to a wide range of support through the centre’s “wellness” scheme.

On the ground floor, there is an indoor soft play area, where parents or guardians can book slots for both toddlers and older children to let loose while they enjoy a tea or coffee in the cafe area.

Councillor Jason Baker, the district council’s portfolio holder for the Chard regeneration scheme, said: “I think we’ve got some fantastic facilities here, with some amazing staff.

“Everything is state-of-the-art and the best you’re going to get around here – I think it’s one of those amazing places which everyone’s going to really enjoy.

“I’m a really keen swimmer so I shall be looking at swimming quite often here.”

What about the pool?

The new pool offers five 25-metre lanes for both local clubs and the general public, as well as  a smaller, shallower training pool where children can learn to swim.

The pool is bordered by state-of-the-art changing rooms, which include coin-operated lockers and wheelchair-accesible cubicles.

Mr Clay became the first person to officially swim in the pool a little after 11am on Monday (November 8), before being joined by members of Trident Swimming Club.

Ms Keitch said: “The learner pool was one of the things we insisted on.

“Children should be able to learn to swim on their doorstep and not have to travel miles.”

The pool comes more than three years after Somerset County Council closed the Cresta Leisure Centre on Zembard Lane, despite an active campaign by local residents to keep it open.

The former pool building has now been decommissioned and the site is being converted to create more capacity for the neighbouring Holyrood Academy.

What next for the Chard regeneration scheme?

Improvements to the appearance of the town centre – including the entrance to Boden Street car park – are already under way, with a revamp of Holyrood Street and a full programme of cultural events being planned for the coming year.

The council announced in late-August that phase two of the regeneration scheme – comprising the revamping of Boden Mill and Holyrood Mill – would be put on hold due to lack of available funding.

Mr Baker said: “We’re really keen to work with partners to bring the mills back to life and back to use.”

Where can I find out more?

For more information about the leisure centure, including opening times and how to become a member, visit www.freedom-leisure.co.uk/centres/chard-leisure-centre.

The Freedom Leisure app can also be downloaded for free from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store for Android users.

Words: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter


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