£1m plan to get Waveney residents fit

A £1m fitness revolution is set to be launched in Waveney, with special emphasis on tackling the issue of childhood obesity.

A £1m fitness revolution is set to be launched in Waveney, with special emphasis on tackling the issue of childhood obesity.

Leisure bosses have unveiled plans to embark on an extensive overhaul of the Waveney Sports and Leisure Centre, in Lowestoft, with a new gym suite designed for children as young as six being one of the highlights.

The equipment will be mobile so can also be taken on tour to local schools as part of efforts to switch children on to the importance of exercise at an early age.

Vicky Collins, principal service manager for leisure operations at Waveney District Council, revealed a new state-of-the art gym for adults would also be created at the sports centre, in Water Lane.

The total project, which still has to be voted on by district councillors, would cost just under £1m and could be completed by Christmas.

Mrs Collins said: “It's been recognised that we need to invest a substantial amount in the leisure centre. We've also realised there is the need to improve health, particularly in the Lowestoft area.

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“The sports centre is tired and looking dated, and we have to compete more fiercely with other leisure centres in the area. It's about sustaining it as a business and improving the health and well-being of Waveney.”

The issue of how to deal with the health of children has become a big topic of national debate, with the latest figures available showing obesity in the 2-11 aged group rose from 9.9pc to 13.4pc between 1995 and 2004.

Last month, the mother of an eight year-old boy, who weighs more than 14 stone, was summoned to appear before social services. Nicola McKeown, from North Tyneside, was told her son Connor McCreaddie could remain in the family as long as she entered a formal agreement to get his weight down.

Mrs Collins said the new children's gym equipment, which would include items such as rowing machines, would allow children to take part in circuit training specially designed for them.

The sports centre will be attached to a new £30m building being developed by neighbouring Lowestoft College and it is hoped this will encourage students to take more exercise.

Visitors will also be able to program the new hi-tech fitness equipment to know their capabilities and decide when they are able to progress to a more strenuous level, while there will be a new specialised area for people referred for exercise by their GPs.

Mrs Collins stressed the importance of taking measures to improve people's health were shown by the fact parts of Lowestoft had higher levels of heart disease compared to the rest of the area, while more than a fifth of people living in Waveney had some kind of long-term debilitating condition affecting areas like hips, knees and other joints.

She added: “We are aiming at groups who may feel they can't access our facilities at the moment. The overall aim is to make it a real family-friendly environment, providing something for everyone.”

Waveney District Council is hoping to fund the project through a partnership with a private operator, but it will retain the management of the centre.

Steve Ardley, the council's portfolio holder for operations and facilities, said: “I'm really excited about this wonderful project, which will benefit everyone in the district.”

Work has just been completed on a £450,000 facelift to changing facilities at the sports centre, with improvement work also taking place at the swimming pool.