'Proper cool': Kids give their verdict on £15m new Spen Valley Leisure Centre

Thousands of schoolchildren every year will be taught to swim at the new Spen Valley Leisure Centre in Liversedge, which has been formally launched by the Mayor of Kirklees.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Friday, 27th May 2022, 11:23 am
Updated Friday, 27th May 2022, 11:25 am

The £15m facility, which opened its doors on February 28, replaces the former Spenborough Pool and is already proving popular with swimmers and gym users of all ages.

Like its predecessor, it will be a magnet for schools in North Kirklees, with the Year four or five youngsters taking lessons numbering around 2,000 every year. Improving people’s health and well-being is also at the heart of the new centre.

The Mayor, Coun Masood Ahmed, who reminisced about attending sports sessions at the old pool as an air cadet, described the new centre as “a fantastic facility” and got stuck into cycling on an exercise bike.

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Former long-distance swimmer Eileen Fenton at the main pool at Spen Valley Leisure Centre

Council Leader Coun Shabir Pandor, who said the leisure centre had been achieved with cross-party support, described the vision for the building as “transforming the future” and added: “I am really pleased that I am a part of it.”

The versatile facilities include two swimming pools, including an eight-lane 25m pool with a viewing gallery, as well as a state-of-the-art fitness suite, fitness studios and a blackout cycle studio.

Staff with operator Kirklees Active Leisure (KAL) say they have been inundated with requests for classes with interest from outside Kirklees, as well as from local people.

KAL board member Balbir Singh Uppal said the creation of the centre was “a very big issue” for local communities in North Kirklees.

Mayor of Kirklees Coun Masood Ahmed tries out an exercise bike

He added: “Whenever you have a new facility for health, people appreciate it and love it – especially when it’s on your doorstep. It’s for our kids’ futures, and it’s great.”

Among the party touring the site were youngsters from nearby Littletown Junior, Infant and Nursery School who were able to see the old pool come down and the new one go up from their classrooms. The school is just one of those using the pool for swimming lessons.

Excited pupils said they had “first dibs” on the pool and variously described it as “amazing” and “proper cool”.

Head teacher Fiona Cullinan-Ward said: “The old pool was okay but this one is just fabulous.”

The new £15m Spen Valley Leisure Centre

Those sentiments were echoed by Eileen Fenton, a 93-year-old former teacher and swimming coach from Dewsbury who, in 1950, took part in the Daily Mail Cross Channel Race – and was the first woman to finish, with a time of 15 hours and 31 minutes.

A swimmer from the age of two, she coached swimmers from 1951, including the national team, eventually giving up when she was 59.

She said learning to swim was “absolutely essential” for children. She added: “The earlier you learn, the better it is.”

Plans for the new centre, which employs 70 full-time, part-time and casual staff, were approved in 2018 and the old pool was demolished in late 2019.

Building work was carried out by contractor Kier, which was appointed in 2020 and which used local labour to deliver the construction.

To find out more about the centre, visit www.spenvalleyleisurecentre.com

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First look inside the new £18.6million Spen Valley Leisure Centre