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20 Dec 2023

UK’s new super-council commits £47.9m to health and wellbeing
BY Liz Terry

Centrepiece of the Knaresborough wellbeing offering is the six-lane pool

Centrepiece of the Knaresborough wellbeing offering is the six-lane pool
photo: North Yorkshire Council

The UK’s most recently-formed local government body – North Yorkshire Council – is making wellbeing a fundamental priority, with the launch of a raft of new facilities backed by £47.9m (US$60.6m, €55.3m) of investment.

The new super-council was formed this April by the merger of seven existing local government bodies with the intention of pivoting England’s largest county to health.

Not-for-profit operator, Brimhams Active, is supporting the council in progressively making a transformational shift from delivering a conventional leisure service to being a community health and wellbeing organisation which takes a holistic approach to improving the physical and mental health of citizens.

This strategy
is being implemented via an innovative health and wellbeing programme called Five Ways to Wellness which focuses on movement, connection, mindset, nutrition and recovery.

To support the successful delivery of Five Ways to Wellbeing, both Knaresborough and Harrogate have new Leisure and Wellness Centres which were delivered by Alliance Leisure for the council through the UK Leisure Framework.

The newly-opened BREEAM-registered, £17.5m Knaresborough Leisure and Wellness Centre has a 60-station fitness suite, group fitness studio, immersive group cycling studio, as well as a six-lane 25 metre pool, a leisure pool, a pool pod and sauna and steam for recovery.

As the council is also aiming for Net Zero, the energy efficient building should see a 60 per cent reduction in carbon output over a more conventional build, with energy-saving features including air source heat pumps, roof-mounted solar panels, LED lighting, a modern building management system and state-of-the-art electrical infrastructure.

To encourage sustainable travel, bike storage and electric car charging points have been added and an outdoor children’s play area constructed from natural materials is due to open in 2024.

Commercial director of Alliance Leisure, James Foley, says the project also delivers on social value: “More than 60 per cent of the works have been delivered via the local supply chain and targeted training opportunities have created several apprenticeships. These developments are delivered by the community for the community.”

Alliance Leisure’s construction partners were, ISG and GT3 Architects

The former Harrogate Hydro has been transformed into the Harrogate Leisure and Wellbeing Centre. The building opened in September, following a £13.5 million refurbishment by Alliance Leisure, working with ISG Construction, Axiom Project Services and GT3 architects – also through the UK Leisure Framework.

New facilities include a 400sq m fitness suite, a Les Mills The Trip immersive cycle studio and a sauna and steam suite.
Existing pool and leisure facilities have been overhauled and a new diving structure added, so the centre can continue to support diving talent in the way it has done for Olympians, such as Jack Laugher MBE and Oliver Dingley.

Outside, the building also has bicycle storage and electric vehicle charging points.

North Yorkshire council’s executive member for culture and leisure, Simon Meyers, says: “By moving the offerings from conventional leisure to being a community health and wellbeing service we aim to help people move more, live well, feel great and reduce the proportion of the population which is physically inactive.”

Mark Tweedie, MD of Brimhams Active, says meeting communities where they are has been a mantra of the projects. “The investments really deliver something for everyone at every stage of life’s journey.”

Tweedie moved from running Community Leisure UK (CLUK) in 2020 to establish Brimhams Active as CEO and has been a driving force behind the Five ways to Wellness strategy.

Jamie Groves, MD of Denbighshire Leisure and founder of the UK Leisure Framework, was recently awarded the UK Active Jan Spaticchia Special Recognition Award by UK Active in recognition of the success of the Framework.

Speaking exclusively to HCM in the upcoming issue, Groves says the Framework, which offers a turnkey approach from assessing viability to supporting marketing, is going from strength to strength: “We've delivered 105 projects with a total value of £136m, while developments totalling £500m are in development or at the pre-construction stage," he said.

“In light of its achievements, confidence in UK Leisure Framework, is high. It delivers what it says – sustainable solutions and expertise from start to finish – and removes a lot of the risks.”


HCM talks to Alliance Leisure CEO, Sarah Watts, Brimhams Active CEO, Mark Tweedie and Denbighshire Leisure CEO, Jamie Groves in the upcoming January and February editions. For your free digital copies, go to To subscribe to our paid-for print editions, go to

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