The Health Hydro has an exceptionally rich history, having formed an integral part of the pioneering health and wellbeing provision for Brunel’s workforce associated with the Great Western Railway works. It also played an important role in the foundation of Britain’s National Health Service through its links to the Medical Fund Society of the Great Western Railway, that became the blueprint for Aneurin (Nye) Bevan.
In 2014, the Health Hydro, along with five other leisure centres in the area, was transferred from Swindon Borough Council to GLL – a charitable social enterprise – on a 25–year agreement.
With a backdrop of mounting maintenance and repairs costs, declining user numbers to the swimming pool and gym facilities, and considerable areas of the building falling into disrepair and neglect, the likelihood of GLL enacting their 5-year break clause was increasing, which would return the facility and its liabilities back to Swindon Borough Council.
A bold new strategy and realistic plan to turn–around the Health Hydro business was required.
Fourth Street began the exercise by undertaking a detailed review of the business and the market in which it operates to understand its current challenges, financial pressures and opportunities. An extensive programme of stakeholder and community consultation took place to garner new ideas and support for the proposals that emerged. These were tested through rigorous market analysis and soft market testing.
The detailed development plan included the preparation of a new ‘vision’ for the Health Hydro that faithfully resonates with its original intent and ethos (i.e. a centre for local community health and wellbeing), a design brief, funding strategy, implementation proposals and detailed cashflow projections.
The proposals have since been adopted by Swindon Borough Council, together with a commitment to underwrite the £1.5m of backlog maintenance and repairs – and now form an integral part of Historic England’s Heritage Action Zone programme.
Fourth Street was subsequently commissioned by the Mechanics’ Institution Trust in 2019, in partnership with Swindon Borough Council, Historic England and other local stakeholders, to undertake a similar study for the neighbouring Mechanics’ Institute.