Leeds City Council has unveiled ambitious proposals to revamp the ageing Fearnville Leisure Centre in Gipton, transforming it into a cutting-edge sports and wellbeing hub. The council’s longstanding desire to replace the facility with a modern one aligns with plans for a 21st-century venue.

Progress is underway to secure funding for the project, aimed at providing a significant boost to communities grappling with substantial social and economic challenges. The proposed wellbeing centre, situated on part of the King George V Playing Fields, a 28-acre green space housing the existing Fearnville facility, would feature indoor amenities such as a main swimming pool, learner pool, sports hall, fitness studios, spin room, a 120-station gym, a community café, and an adventure play area.

The outdoor offerings at Fearnville would also see substantial enhancements, including an all-weather pitch, tennis courts, a skatepark, and a play zone. To promote biodiversity, the site would undergo tree-planting and soft landscaping, creating opportunities for residents to connect with nature through interactions with insects, birds, and other wildlife.

The revitalized centre aims to encourage increased physical activity among residents in Gipton & Harehills and Killingbeck & Seacroft, densely-populated areas with low life expectancy and high obesity rates. Additionally, it is expected to benefit the broader East Leeds community. Anticipating a growing demand for sports and leisure facilities due to planned housing developments, Fearnville currently serves as a vital learn-to-swim provider for over 30 primary schools.

Leeds City Council has submitted a planning permission application for the proposed scheme, with construction anticipated to commence in mid-2024 if approved. During the construction phase, the existing centre will remain operational, situated on a section of the site currently occupied by a disused artificial football pitch. Following completion, the 1980s-era current building will be demolished.

Funding for the project is slated to come from a combination of external grant support, the council’s capital programme, and developer contributions.

Councillor Salma Arif, Leeds City Council’s executive member for adult social care, public health and active lifestyles, said; “Improving the health and wellbeing of all our residents is one of the foundations of the council’s Best City Ambition – our vision for a Leeds that is compassionate and caring with a strong economy.

“To help us achieve this goal, we need to give people access to high-quality sports, fitness and leisure facilities of the type planned for Fearnville.

“The new centre will be a significant asset for Gipton & Harehills, Killingbeck & Seacroft and the wider east Leeds area, offering increased opportunities for physical activities while also fostering a greater sense of community inclusion and engagement among those who use it.

“We want to create something that is a real source of pride for people across east Leeds and has a positive impact on their health and wellbeing for many, many years to come.

“The council has made two unsuccessful bids to win support for a previous version of the Fearnville scheme from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund, so I am pleased that we have been able to step in and move forward with the plans.”