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£4m project to boost Wymondham, Diss and Long Stratton leisure centres - with Wymondham set to benefit from the lion’s share

PUBLISHED: 07:00 20 January 2015 | UPDATED: 12:53 20 January 2015

Wymondham Leisure Centre

Wymondham Leisure Centre

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

A major council investment of more than £4m will be poured into south Norfolk leisure centres in a bid to transform them into community hubs.

An artist's impression of the new Wymondham Leisure Centre entrance. An artist's impression of the new Wymondham Leisure Centre entrance.

The South Norfolk Council venture will see £4.15m invested in the Wymondham, Diss and Long Stratton centres - making second-rate changing rooms and oversubscribed classes a thing of the past.

The Wymondham facility, on Norwich Road, will receive the lion’s share of the funding, with £3m allocated to revamp the popular centre and expand its facilities.

It will see the gym treble in size, with the number of exercise stations soaring from 36 to 100, an upgrade to the wet area changing rooms, and a new cafeteria and sandwich bar, spa area with a pedicure and manicure bar and children’s soft play area.

But despite the comprehensive package of upgrades, the site, which was built in two phases in 1993 and 1999, will not expand in size and no parking spaces will be lost - with just a two-floor glass extension and the new cafe by the existing entrance marking the changes.

Wymondham Leisure Centre expansion: case study

Neil Seach was the manager of the gym from 1994 to 1998. He said: “Being a regular user of the facilities they are tired and dated and in need of an upgrade. To hear there is going to be this investment is huge for the community.

“Having a cafe again will help to rebuild the community spirit of people attending the centre.”

The 36-year-old, of Rustens Manor Road in the town, said: “Having a soft play area is also very good news, I have a young daughter and following a car accident am now disabled and my mobility is restricted so this will give me somewhere else to take my daughter to, meet friends and hopefully make some new friends as my daughter plays and we can have a drink.”

The council plans to increase the number of disabled toilets and showers at the centre, as well as installing a designated space for wheelchair users to leave their chairs.

“The improvement to facilities for wheelchair users is definitely needed, and some changing rooms specifically designed for them would help no end. I have, in the past, had real difficulties getting in changing rooms after swimming,” Mr Seach said.

“Expanding the opportunities for disabled people to be involved in sport in the centre as a whole would also be appealing. Opportunities are limited for disabled people to be involved in sports and I would welcome further opportunities to be involved in this.”

Mr Seach, who mentors 16 to 19-year-olds at City College Norwich, said: “In addition to adding all this to the town, it will also create more jobs, this will be a welcome boost to the community.”

Councillor David Bills, cabinet member for innovation and efficiency, said that it was a “very exciting time” and one of the council’s largest investments in the last few years.

“As a council, we recognise the importance of providing quality leisure facilities which will help ensure our residents become active now and remain active in the future. Our ultimate aim is to provide appealing yet affordable leisure facilities than can be used by the whole community to support the health and wellbeing of all our residents,” he said.

A new swipe card system and online booking process will also be introduced to allow members to bypass queues at reception.

Although the council accepted that disruption from the nine-month project, which will begin in June, is inevitable, they insisted that it will be kept to a minimum, with other leisure centres prepared to accommodate members.

Sandra Dineen, chief executive of the council, said: “We would like to see the centres become somewhere that families can go - even if they are not doing the same activity at the same time, somewhere they can go for the same period of time and find something they would like to do.”

A jobs boost for the town is set to accompany the work, with more than 15 new roles in the centre expected and two or three more from indirect employment in the area.

Russell Boulton, principal at Wymondham High Academy, which is next to the leisure centre, said: “Wymondham High is delighted to support the investment of £3m in the leisure centre. The improved facilities will greatly benefit our students as well as the wider community and encourage both fitness and wellbeing.”

While most of the work is interior adjustments and therefore does not need planning permission, an application covering the additional spaces at the front of the building will be submitted in March.

Meanwhile, the remaining £1.15m will be distributed between the Diss and Long Stratton centres, with work on the changing rooms and reception area in Diss set to begin in March and improvements to the Long Stratton facility likely to begin next year.

Council bosses said that, although still a pipe dream, plans for a brand new multi-million pound leisure centre in Diss were a possibility.

A meeting is being held at Wymondham Leisure Centre to discuss the plans on Thursday, February 12 from 1pm to 9pm.

To let us know what you think about the work, contact reporter Lauren Cope on lauren.cope@archant.co.uk or phone 07584 311473.

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