Solar panels at Larkfield Leisure Centre

Grants will deliver heat pumps and more solar power for Larkfield Leisure Centre

Grants totalling more than £1.5 million have delivered a major boost to Tonbridge and Malling’s ambitions for carbon neutral leisure centres.

Two grants, one from the government and one from Sport England, will be invested in Larkfield Leisure Centre, saving hundreds of tonnes of carbon emissions every year.

A grant of £1,164,760 has been awarded by the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme for the installation of air source heat pumps for the fitness pool at Larkfield Leisure Centre, which will allow removal of the current gas fired boilers serving the pool. The council will contribute an additional £158,831 under the funding terms of the scheme which is run by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero and delivered by Salix.

The council has also been awarded £405,000 by Sport England to fund energy saving measures at the centre in New Hythe Lane, Larkfield. New solar panels and LED lighting will help cut both the running costs and carbon emissions of the centre, which is operated by the council’s leisure partner tmactive. The centre already has 190 solar roof panels which were fitted in 2023 (pictured).

The new funding provides a major boost to the council’s ambition to make its leisure centres carbon neutral by 2027. At Tonbridge Swimming Pool, solar panels have also recently been installed on the roof and are expected to save around 14 tonnes of emissions every year.

The continued investment in energy saving technologies follows a recent council study which revealed that more than half of total greenhouse gas emissions from the council’s buildings and operations were produced by its three leisure centres, with electricity use being one of the biggest sources.

The government and Sport England’s £60m capital investment programme has so far funded more than 500 capital upgrades at over 300 swimming pools. The funding has been shared between 264 local authorities, of which £20m has been provided by Sport England via the National Lottery and just over £40m has been provided by the Government as part of its commitment to support the long-term sustainability of public leisure.

Tonbridge and Malling’s cabinet member for climate change, Cllr Robin Betts, said: “Swimming pools and leisure centres are widely valued by residents for both fitness and recreational purposes, but the impact on the environment cannot be ignored.

“We and our leisure management partner, tmactive, are delighted to be awarded this funding, enabling us to continue to help Larkfield leisure centre move us another step closer to our carbon neutral ambitions.

“This will also hugely improve efficiency of the swimming pool and help protect it from the volatile energy markets, giving an added degree of security unlike some other swimming pools across the UK which were closed due to the energy crisis.”

Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: “Millions of people swim every year in England, but high energy costs mean some pools are struggling financially. I know from personal experience the health benefits of getting down to your local pool, whether that’s just for a few lengths, to swim with friends, or a water aerobics class. This further £60 million of support from the government and Sport England will make hundreds of swimming pools more energy efficient so they can keep offering their vital community and health benefits for generations to come.”

Programme Manager at Salix Charles Pegg said: “The council’s leisure centres are highly popular and important for the communities they serve but are also responsible for producing significant greenhouse gas emissions.

“We are delighted that by focusing on these buildings the council will make a substantial impact and improve the energy efficiency of these key sites. We look forward to working with Tonbridge and Malling on its decarbonisation journey.”


Published: Wednesday, 10th April 2024