Swimming in Mile End Leisure Centre. Credit: Liz Greenhalgh
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Leisure centres in Tower Hamlets close for refurbishment before council takeover

Tower Hamlets’ seven leisure centres will be closed for refurbishment before the council takes over management from GLL.

Tower Hamlets Council will insource the management of seven leisure centres in the borough after the previous contract with leisure provider Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), who operate as Better, expired in April 2024.

John Orwell Sports Centre, Whitechapel Sports Centre, Mile End Leisure Centre, York Hall Leisure Centre, Poplar Baths Leisure Centre and Gym, Tiller Leisure Centre and St George’s Leisure Centre are the centres which will be operating under an in-house service from Wednesday 1 May.

The leisure facilities will close from Wednesday 1 until Monday 6 May for refurbishments before the council’s new insourced leisure service, Be Well, launches to the public on Tuesday 7 May.

York Hall Spa in Bethnal Green will be closed for renovations until early summer.

By insourcing leisure services, the council aims to improve customer experience, provide opportunities for local employment, boost public health, and increase participation among women, girls, SEND and older people in health and wellbeing activities.

Another aim of Be Well is to reduce health inequalities in Tower Hamlets by providing accessible and inclusive services for everyone. In the borough, 28% of women are inactive compared to 23% of men, and 42% of people from an Asian background (excluding Chinese) are inactive compared to 17% from a White British ethnic background, according to council data.

After the launch of Be Well, residents will have access to six leisure centres under a single membership. There will be upgrades to the spa at York Hall, a new spin studio at John Orwell and refurbished pitches at Mile End.

In February 2024, Mayor Lutfur Rahman announced the council would spend £248,000 a year on free swimming for women and girls over 16 and men over 55, to be introduced this summer.

When the council first announced in August 2022 that it would take direct control of its leisure services, Mark Sesnan, CEO of GLL, said insourcing would increase costs by an additional £2.1 million a year.

Leisure centres operating under GLL in the borough have been making a loss for the past three years, according to Tower Hamlets Council. The council forecasts that bringing services in-house will generate an income surplus from 2027/28.

For more local news, read From groundshare to grand stadium: Hackney Wick FC’s campaign for a permanent home

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