The Future of Public Leisure in Devon Report

The Future of Public Leisure in Devon report is published on the 9 May 2024

When we think about the challenges of inactivity, the social and health inequalities and the incredible pressure on our NHS partners, alongside the ability physical activity has in transforming lives and the invaluable contribution local authority public leisure services across Devon provide towards sport and physical activity opportunities, it presents us with an opportunity and a question worth exploring:

“What if we could unlock the full potential of Devon’s leisure services, so that those who would benefit the most could become more active, more often, and live longer, connected and healthier lives?”

Considering this robust question, we began a journey of building relationships with our health and council colleagues – connecting, sharing and learning, and after years of exploring the challenges and opportunities, and drawing upon new and existing insights, we have now published The Future of Public Leisure in Devon report.

Designed collaboratively with colleagues from local authorities in Devon, the report offers thought towards a collaborative vision for ‘The Future of Public Leisure in Devon’ and outlines 10 key emerging themes for future focus. There is a clear call to action for all partners to take time to consider and act on each of these themes as drivers towards a new collaborative Active Wellbeing Service. This is made up of partners working together to deliver mutual outcomes for a much healthier and happier Devon.

We are all just touching the surface of what could be achieved. There is considerable hidden potential in our network of public leisure facilities supported by a growing skilled workforce to be a catalyst for change.

We believe the hidden potential is found by unlocking the value of leisure services to help tackle inequality and contribute meaningfully to the prevention agenda.

Read the Report in Full 

Read the Report Summary

Report Overview

The report works as a discussion document to help local system partners who may not ordinarily connect with public leisure, develop a more informed understanding of the value it holds for community wellbeing. It o­ffers strategic considerations, specifically focusing on our built infrastructure of local authority public leisure facilities and the services they provide across Devon. We have also brought community-run outdoor swimming pools into the scope of the report following some partnership work in 2022.

The report content covers the challenges, opportunities, insights and emerging themes, as well as a ‘spotlight’ section, bringing to life the impactful work of the leisure services within each of the local authorities and the community pool infrastructure across Devon. Plus, there is insight into the role an Active Partnership can play in supporting local authority colleagues and the leisure services they deliver.

The report also builds on Sport England’s Uniting the Movement (2021) strategy, Sport England’s national report Future of public sector leisure (2022) and Active Devon’s Devon Moving Together strategy (2022).

Research and Insight Journey

For four years, we have convened many conversations, bringing together thoughts, views and learning with our leisure, health and council partners to understand the systems at play, the complexities, issues and opportunities. Part of the journey included understanding the national viewpoint working with colleagues in Sport England, CIMPSA, Swim England, Community Leisure UK and UK Active.

We have also captured insights from 12 Devon Leisure Network group meetings over a period of 24 months and conducted a semi structured survey consultation with 10 local authorities with follow-up conversations, along with four community pool forums.

In addition to all this, we hosted a regional conference in September 2023, spotlighting the work and experiences of each local authority in Devon, the views from Active Partnerships, and the wider input from councils across the Southwest and from within the communities through a network of local swimming pools. The conference was attended by representatives from various councils across Devon and the Southwest, Sport England, Active Partnerships, National Governing Bodies of Sport, the Local Government Association, the NHS and Public Health.

During the conference we recorded views from the workshops, which you can access and listen to here: The Future of Public Leisure in Devon Conference video.*

Call to Action

The opportunity to participate in ‘leisure’ in the form of physical activity, sport and movement is an underpinning component of healthy, cohesive and vibrant communities. It is important we work together to support, protect and maximise our leisure assets in communities as they are foundational to enhancing quality of life and wellbeing outcomes, and key in addressing deep rooted health inequalities.

We hope the report will stimulate ideas and opportunities for collaboration as our public and social system landscape transitions to one of integrative whole system approaches in tackling inactivity, addressing social need, and delivering community services that enable a better quality of life.

Our call to action is for all partners across Devon to consider each of the emerging themes and ways that each of these could act as conditions for change or enablers towards unlocking the full potential of Devon’s leisure services, so that those who would benefit the most could become more active, more often, and live longer, connected and healthier lives.

Read the Report in Full 

Read the Report Summary

Read the press release: Active Devon Publish The Future of Public Leisure in Devon Report

We would like to thank all the partners involved for their collaboration in the development of The Future of Public Leisure in Devon report.


* Please note: Some job roles of attendees talking to camera may have changed since recording the video in September 2023.