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Local authority leisure providers

What we've learnt over the last year of coronavirus restrictions and how we're reopening from the third national lockdown.

9th April 2021

Name of project / organisation

North Devon Council and the District Councils' Network

National lottery or exchequer funding


Sport / activity


With the step two of the government's roadmap out of coronavirus (Covid-19) restrictions beginning next week, we've spoken to a local authority representatives about their experiences during lockdown and what they've learnt over the last year and how the National Leisure Recovery Fund is helping them to reopen. 

Here, we talk to Ken Miles, chief executive of North Devon Council, and the District Councils' Network's lead for enhancing quality of life, councillor Dan Humphreys.

Lane swimming at a public indoor swimming pool.

  • How has the National Leisure Recovery Fund helped plans for reopening?

    Councillor Humphreys: "Our leisure centres are fundamental to the nation’s health and economic recovery, and to the long-term health of our communities, including addressing widening health inequalities.

    "This funding has provided much-needed support to our leisure services which are struggling as a result of lost income during the coronavirus crisis."

    Ken: "We received £180,000 from the National Leisure Recovery Fund and these vital funds will enable the authority to re-open its three leisure facilities in Ilfracombe and Barnstaple.

    "The North Devon Leisure Centre, the Tarka Tennis Centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Fitness Centre are operated by Parkwood Leisure and collectively welcome over half a million visitors each year."

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  • Why is it so important for these types of facilities to remain open?

    Ken: "The value of these facilities cannot be underestimated, with hundreds of sports clubs desperate to get back through the doors. Thousands of individuals also rely on these facilities for both their physical and mental wellbeing.

    "We have exciting plans in North Devon with our brand new leisure centre due to open in April 2022, and the National Leisure Recovery Fund grant is a major boost and will help us keep these plans on track."

    Councillor Humphreys: "Leisure centres have been integral facilities during the pandemic. They’ve served as key vaccination sites and, when possible last year, have delivered social prescription activities to those with health conditions.

    "Leisure services have also rolled out distanced exercise programmes, giving people their much needed first taste of communal activity since the start of this crisis.

    "However, so many of our leisure centres still remain at risk of closing for good.

    "We cannot let this happen, it is crucial that a long-term effort is made to support health and happiness in everyone."

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  • How have your facilities been used during lockdown?

    Even while the facilities have been closed during lockdown, they’ve played a vital community role, with the North Devon Leisure Centre supporting a coronavirus test site and then from December last year, hosting a vaccination centre.

    So far, over 35,000 North Devon residents have received a vaccination at the site and the role out of vaccines is set to continue there until at least September.                                               

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