Tarka Leisure Centre FAQs

Parkwood Leisure are currently collecting all enquiries to form a database of interest so please visit the Tarka Leisure Centre webpage and use the contact us to register your interest. They can then confirm details closer to the opening.

When will Tarka Leisure Centre open?

All being well, Tuesday 17 May 2022

What facilities are being provided?

Located in Barnstaple, the brand new centre will have a fantastic range of facilities for the whole family to enjoy.

Facilities include:

Why haven't you provided a fun pool with a wave machine, lazy river or flumes?

When we started the Tarka Leisure Centre project, we began with a strategic needs assessment based on a template from Sport England. Using this, we identified that the facilities we must provide were:

Tarka Leisure Centre FAQs

We invited the private sector market to bid for the contract and invited them to add facilities where they could generate enough income to cover the cost of the additional facilities that they would be putting in, plus generate enough money to help make the swimming pools sustainable because they are the facilities that never make any money.

There isn’t any provision for slides or flumes as we’re a local authority with finite budgets. Although sport is a non-statutory function of the council, we feel there is a moral obligation to provide swimming facilities and a need to provide young people with the ability to swim, especially because of our coastline here in North Devon. Much as we would love to be able to deliver a 50m pool and a fun pool it just isn’t sustainable for an area with the population the size of North Devon.

Our hope is that we will be able to provide the ability for people to have fun and splash about in the pool that Tarka Leisure Centre provides. Our leisure partner, Parkwood Leisure will be in charge of the programming but the pool space we have provided is flexible so they can provide a multitude of activities so there is the ability to bring in inflatables. Just because it is suitable as a lane pool, doesn’t preclude it from being able to provide fun sessions.

We have gone as far as we can push our budgets to deliver a facility mix that we hope will meet the majority of people’s requirements and a standard of facility that we hope will make the residents of North Devon very proud.

Why aren’t there any squash courts?

At the time that the strategic needs assessment was completed in 2017, the Atlantic Racquet Sports Centre in Bideford were proposing to install 3 squash courts. The assessment showed that this would likely be delivered before the new leisure centre opened and would drastically reduce the demand for squash courts making them financially unviable. It therefore was not included on the baseline mandatory facility mix requested by NDC and Parkwood Leisure made the decision not to include any within the additional mix of facilities that they have provided.

Why isn’t there a health suite (sauna/steam room/hot tub)?

Over the years, there have been some large scale fires caused in leisure centres by saunas and steam rooms – one occurred at Parkwood’s Riverside Leisure Centre in Exeter where a plastic bottle was left on the sauna element. The centre was shut for 4-years! So Parkwood took the decision not to include a health suite as it was too risky.

Will the moving floors in the pools work better than the ones in the old leisure centre?

Yes, technology has moved on greatly in the past 40 years since the previous leisure centre was built and we now have the ability to install much more reliable moving platforms that will change the depth of the pool.

After consultation with the swimming club, surf life-saving clubs, water polo club and sub aqua groups the specification has requested 1.8m depth throughout the main pool. This will be achieved using a moveable floor that has been funded by the Coastal Communities Fund.

Will the endless ski slope be included in the cost of membership?

Parkwood are currently reviewing charges as these will vary depending on if it is single or multiple use. It will not automatically be included in the membership but they will have 'taster' sessions for members and are considering a 'bolt on' membership option.

Why isn’t a pontoon/slipway into the River Taw being considered?

Seven Brethren is a complicated location to access the river. Firstly, the Environment Agency is about to start flood defence works, running all the way from the Long Bridge to Tarka Tennis Centre. We are currently exploring the creation of a new events area and long stay car park to the west of the current tennis centre. We don’t have any funding at the moment to install another slipway or pontoon. However, we are keeping in mind that we may want to improve access to the river if an opportunity or funding arises in the future.

Will there be diving boards?


Why hasn't indoor bowls been included in the new centre?

The full size version of indoor bowls is not being re-provided as the strategic needs assessment showed conclusively the sport is not financially sustainable, especially as there is a similar facility in Westward Ho! Unlike a sports hall which is multi-purpose a bowls hall can really only be used for bowls; and sits empty 7 months a year whilst clubs are playing outdoors. There is another 4-rink indoor facility at in Westward Ho!, which users have been signposted to. There is also a 2-rink facility at Easewell Campsite in Mortehoe, which can be used on a pay to play basis.

Why aren’t you providing anywhere for short mat bowls?

Short mat bowls can be provided in any suitably sized room (this is very different to full size indoor bowls which is provided at the existing North Devon Leisure Centre). A lot of the crown green clubs provide short mat bowls in the winter, the clubs asked us not to provide short mat bowls in the new leisure centre as it would impact on their income.

Can the public use the toilet facilities?

No, toilet facilities are for leisure centre users only.

Who should I contact if I have an issue with the Leisure Centre?

First contact should be made with Parkwood Leisure by heading to their website; if you are not satisfied with the response, you can escalate things to the Council’s Leisure Contract Officer, by sending a message via our Feedback system.