12 months in, Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre on the ongoing importance of community and exercise post-lockdowns

Tom Fletcher has won a community award from the BBC

Tom Fletcher, the area contract manager for Everyone Active - Credit: Everyone Active

One year since it first welcomed visitors, Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre’s manager reflects on what has been a "really good period of time for us”. 

Opened with much fanfare back in April 2021, the £23 million Hornchurch leisure centre replaced the Hornchurch Sports Centre just as some Covid restrictions were starting to lift. 

Tom Fletcher, area contract manager at the centre's owner, Everyone Active - and the recipient of Havering’s lockdown hero award - said that when it first opened, leisure centres were “at their greatest need”. 

“I think the fact that we were able to open a new leisure centre really supported the community,” Tom says. 

A view of the 25m main pool and diving pool at the centre

A view of the 25m main pool and diving pool at the centre - Credit: Everyone Active

Not only did such centres provide a space to exercise and reconnect, Tom believes they “gave people a sense of reality that they had not had in some time”. 

The need for leisure centres, however, reaches beyond the initial post-lockdowns frenzy. For example, March was Harrow Lodge Leisure Centre’s biggest month so far, during which it recorded a total of 39,300 visitors. 

Activities like weight management courses, the introduction of its high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts Fortis, and free swimming during the school holidays have helped nurture the continuing growth of the centre’s reputation.  

Weight management courses and the centre's own Fortis workouts are but a couple of the activities available on-site

Weight management courses and the centre's own Fortis workouts are some of the activities available on-site - Credit: Everyone Active

New programmes, such as one specifically tailored towards supporting those with long Covid, are also due to be launched, and reflect the dual function of the space as a leisure centre and community hub. 

“A lot of that has come out of the work we did with the local authority during the pandemic,” said Tom, alluding to the aid Havering Council provided in helping fund and prepare the centre for opening. 

He adds the financial backing the council provided was not necessarily mirrored in other boroughs, and puts some of the success down to that partnership. 

Tom Fletcher said that the opening of leisure centres last year “gave people a sense of reality”

Tom Fletcher said that the opening of leisure centres last year 'gave people a sense of reality that they had not had in some time' - Credit: Everyone Active

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Keen not to rest on his laurels, Tom said there are plans for new ways in which the centre can continue to support Havering residents. 

Apart from the additional classes, one thing he is looking to improve is ways it can boost apprentice opportunities for young people. 

As someone who worked his way up in the leisure industry, Tom said he is passionate about providing gateways into apprenticeships and employment. 

“It’s about bringing those opportunities,” he said.