Reading’s outsourced leisure operator is set to get an ‘eyewatering’ bailout from the council, under plans which will also see two planned new swimming pools delayed by around six months.

Greenwich Leisure Limited, which runs Rivermead Leisure Centre, was awarded a contract earlier this year to build two new leisure centres at Rivermead and Palmer Park.

The organisation is now set to get an ‘eyewatering’ £410,000 bailout from Reading Borough Council (RBC), while the social enterprise organisation says it can no longer sign the contract this year due to the uncertainty brought on by Covid-19.

GLL, also known as Better, now wants to wait until spring 2021 to sign the contract for the new leisure centres but the council and GLL both still want to push forward with the plans.

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The council is now looking to sign a planning costs agreement with GLL, paying them £816,000 to undertake preparation work for the new pools, and allowing the council to retain intellectual property rights over the design if GLL decides not to sign the contract next year.

It will allow the council to take over the plans and progress them in a different way if the original plan cannot be delivered, while the costs will be recovered if the plans do ultimately come to fruition.

Peter Burt, who wants the Arthur Hill Pool to be brought back, called the £1.2 million total expenditure ‘eyewatering’ and questioned why there was no mention of keeping leisure services in-house as an alternative.

  But a spokesman for the council said the bailout "will ensure the survival of the centre" and the planning costs agreement will allow the project to progress and the cost will be deducted from the contract sum.

  UKactive, the leisure sector representative body, has warned that due to the Covid-19 pandemic half of leisure centres in the country could close.

  A RBC spokesman said: "We're determined that won't happen in Reading."

If RBC’s Policy committee agrees the recommended plan on Monday, August 24, a planning application will be submitted in November this year, with the council’s Planning Applications committee likely to vote on that in February or March 2021.

The 25-year contract to design, build, operate and run the town’s leisure services would then be finalised and signed by GLL in spring 2021, if the organisation is still willing, and construction work would begin in around June 2021.

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A leisure centre and 25m six-lane community pool is planned at Palmer Park and was previously expected to be ready by early 2022, to replace the closed Arthur Hill Swimming Pool, but is now expected to open in September 2022.

The new leisure centre, replacing the current one at Rivermead, will have a 25m eight-lane competition pool with diving boards and was due to be completed by summer 2022.

It is now expected to be ready by January 2023.

GLL has reached out to more than 40 local authority partners to ask them for financial help, according to the Huffington Post.

The non-profit organisation says it cannot maintain the operation of Rivermead without financial support and would terminate the current contract if the council does not fund ongoing costs while the centre is shut.

Indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities were allowed to re-open from July 25 this year, after lockdown restrictions were lifted, with Rivermead Leisure Centre re-opening on that day.