Agenda item

Halton Leisure Centre - Village Change Facilities


The Board received details of an online petition received by the Council on 10 August 2023 titled ‘Single Sex Spaces’, in relation to the village changing room plan for the new Halton Leisure Centre.


The report provided Members with detailed information on Halton Leisure Centre plans and the design process relating to the village changing rooms.  It also included information on the main consultation events relating to the building facility mix and the subsequent advertising of the planning application, which was submitted in May 2020, where comments from the public were sought and received.


Officers referred to the risk assessments a pool operator was required to carry out and the requirement for the production of Pool Safety Operating Procedures (PSOPs), which included how changing rooms were to be operated, supervised and cleaned.


The Chair circulated copies of plans of the village changing area to Members (also available on the Council’s website) and read out a statement of rationale provided by the Architect, as to why the changing village is the most appropriate option for the wet side change at the new leisure centre:


·         A changing village design is recommended by Sports England as being preferable to the single sex separate male and female open-plan changing rooms alternative.  All the new pools we have designed have been based around village changing.  All our remodelling and refurbishment projects have taken old-fashioned single-sex open plan changing and converted it to village changing;


·         The changing village allows a male parent/carer to supervise a female child in changing before and after swimming, and a female parent/carer a male child.  In the same way, helpers can accompany people with disabilities of the opposite sex.  However, separate sex changing rooms discriminate against single parents and parents in a same sex relationship;


·         Village changing offers greater flexibility to accommodate varying mixes of male and female users, including the flexibility of allowing family groups to change together;


·         Village changing gives flexibility to allow staff of either sex to supervise, clean and maintain the area.  All changing spaces and lockers are available to all users giving flexibility to accommodate any proportion of male and female users;


·         There is nothing in the Moor Lane design to prevent Active Halton from running single sex swimming sessions as part of their timetable. Glazed screens between the foyer and the pool hall will be equipped with blinds.  The separate adjoining school swimming/team change is available as an area that can be closed off for privacy during adult swimming for sensitive groups and will have separate access to toilets, pre-cleanse showers and the pool water;


·         The changing village will minimise any perceived sense of insecurity for sensitive users through being equipped with individual cubicles of various sizes giving privacy for changing: single person, two-person and four-person/family.  It will also be equipped with separate shower cubicles for post-swim showers, again offering better individual privacy than single sex separate male and female open-plan changing.


Members discussed the two options described in the report and agreed that option one was preferrable, but made the following observations and suggestions to ensure extra safeguards:


·         Although construction was underway, could changes be made to the partitions of the cubicles to ensure that the gap at the bottom was at a minimum – officers would send Members the current measurements of the cubicle doors and raise this with the Architect;

·         A vertical split sliding door option was suggested which would offer more flexibility of the space – officers would discuss this with the Architect;

·         CCTV was discussed – could this be installed in the communal corridor area of the changing village;

·         The presence of staff was important to ensure that the rules of the Centre were complied with, this would instill confidence in the public to know they were in a safe environment;

·         Signage must be robust enough to deter offending; this should include the penalties for rule breaking, ie prosecution;

·         Signage to include no nudity in the changing village – cubicles are provided for changing;

·         Signage to include warning against the use of mobile phones in changing areas; and

·         It was felt that the changing village design would be more serviceable and practical for families and carers attending the pool.


It was  confirmed that the Board would make a site visit to the Leisure Centre following the meeting.  Officers were also tasked with obtaining information from other leisure centres in the Country who operate the same village changing facility, so that these could be shared and offer reassurance to petitioners.


RESOLVED:  That the Board recommends Option one as the preferred option, with consideration being given to the above suggestions, and contractors continue to proceed with the current design layout and program of works.



Supporting documents: