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Housing group joins forces with leisure provider in landmark acquisition deal

Wednesday April 10th, 2013

Places for People acquire DC Leisure

In January 2013, property management and development group Places for People announced its acquisition of leading leisure management company, DC Leisure. Under the ownership of Places for People, DC Leisure will bid for the increasing number of outsourced leisure management contracts.

Steve Philpott, Chief Executive of DC Leisure, said of the acquisition: “This will be a pioneering partnership – the first time a housing provider has joined forces with a leisure provider.”

DC Leisure has built 11 leisure facilities worth £110 million across the country over the last six years. It currently manages over 100 leisure facilities on behalf of local councils. The leisure management group helps local authorities make significant savings by utilising its experience in procurement and project management and takes full risk on market fluctuations and income levels.

Places for People is one of the UK’s largest property groups and works with 230 local authorities, owning or managing a total of 82,000 properties.

Peter Kirkham, Development Director of DC Leisure, said: By developing dynamic and responsive partnerships with local authorities, we can optimise the performance of leisure facilities to better serve the local community and achieve both economic and social objectives. By bringing together the right teams, with the necessary drive, skills and experience, we have forged very successful partnerships which continue to grow.”

PPPs in action: West Bromwich Leisure Centre

Local authorities currently have three options available to them when building or updating leisure facilities; they can borrow money from the exchequer at a low rate, develop agreements where private companies build facilities then lease them back to the council, or councils can work more extensively with private partners in Public Private Partnerships, known as PPPs.

Last year DC Leisure was awarded a PPP contract to build and manage an £11 million leisure development by Sandwell Borough Council.

Mr Kirkham said: “One of the key effects of PPPs delivering new or improved leisure facilities is a considerable increase in leisure participation within the surrounding community. Our experience shows that by replacing old and often outdated facilities, we can support local authorities to reach participation goals; at a number of our sites, facility usage has trebled. This effect supports the health and wellness agenda of the local authority as well as the plans of organisations such as Sport England, by introducing previously unengaged members of the public to physical activity and maintaining their interest through innovative programmes and facilities.”

Building work has now begun on the all new West Bromwich Leisure Centre, due to open in 2014. Facilities at the centre will include a 25m pool and smaller learner pool, a sauna and steam room, a four-court sports hall, a 100-station fitness suite, two dance studios, an indoor children’s adventure play centre and cafe.

Sandwell Council cabinet member for leisure services, Councillor Linda Horton, said: “DC Leisure is a major player in the leisure industry with all the skills, knowledge and expertise to give Sandwell a state of the art pool complex.

“We believe that the new leisure centre will provide a real focal point for the local community. One of our key aims is to encourage increased participation in physical activity and sport and continue the legacy of the London 2012 Games. In order to do this we need to provide high quality sport and leisure facilities in the local area; we are confident that our partnership with DC Leisure will do just that.”

The future of PPPs

It is estimated that over half of all local authorities now choose to outsource their leisure provision, with many partnering with private companies to increase footfall and reduce annual revenue costs. DC Leisure is experienced in delivering best practice PPPs to local authorities and the acquisition by Places for People will see this work continuing to benefit communities across the UK.

Mr Philpott said: “We are proud of our existing partnerships with local authorities and believe by being a part of Places for People we can bring even more added value to these partnerships.”

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