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Northampton Leisure Trust

In 2010 Northampton Borough Council carried out a business review of leisure services to ascertain the best way forward for the town. Northampton Leisure Trust (branded Trilogy Leisure) was launched in 2011 to provide sport, leisure, play and cultural opportunities for the communities of Northampton and its surrounding areas.


In 2010 Northampton Borough Council carried out a business review of leisure services to ascertain the best way forward for the town. Northampton Leisure Trust (branded Trilogy Leisure) was launched in 2011 to provide sport, leisure, play and cultural opportunities for the communities of Northampton and its surrounding areas.

Running five venues including one on a hospital site, Trilogy Wellbeing works with partners to meet the expectations and core values of the Local Authority, delivering programmes that help tackle health and social issues identified across Northampton.

The challenge

The initial challenge for Northampton was to find the most effective way to deliver sport and leisure services whilst also moving into the emerging health agenda as it was in 2010/11. 

After a number of years of successful delivery, in 2021 the government deemed the County Council to have failed, abolishing it and creating two unitary authorities, West Northamptonshire (covering Northampton, Daventry and South Northampton) and North Northamptonshire (covering Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and Wellingborough). The leisure contract is now held with West Northamptonshire Council and from a health perspective there are new structures being developed with the Integrated Care System. The Trust have had to adapt and manage this significant change whilst continuing to provide services based on community needs, this is a developing picture as the structures are still new.

Today, the principle challenge is delivering the breadth of services needed as a social enterprise and ensuring the Trust is sustainable, particularly given the increasing cost of utilities and the financial impact of running 5 swimming pools. However the Trust have a proactive plan in place around utilities that mitigates against being a drain on council resources.

The trust estimate that only 15 per cent of people currently use leisure and fitness facilities and believe they should also be serving the other 85 per cent.

The solution

Trilogy was established to provide wellbeing opportunities and has developed its service to support the prevention agenda, delivering intervention programmes and supporting its customers. Trilogy provides opportunities for the whole family, from a comprehensive under 5s programme through to the well attended 50 plus programme, a real cradle to grave approach to supporting holistic wellbeing.

Originally running three sites, the Trust have also acquired a site with Duston Parish Council, a leisure centre on the Northampton General Hospital site, a soft play centre and standalone gym. In October 2022 they will be opening a dual use site at a local secondary school on an Academy site in order to operate out of hours facilities. 

The organisation has an outward facing and proactive approach, committed to making an impact locally and also understanding and interpreting the national picture.

Trilogy Leisure have produced a three-year strategic vision from 2022-25 which is tied into council objectives to support those people in need around health and social inequality. 

As well as offering a varied programme of wellbeing activities at all of its facilities, the Trust also delivers a comprehensive range of activities within the local community, promoting wellbeing opportunities to hard-to-reach groups and to those who are inactive and may face barriers to accessing Trilogy facilities. 

Their services include:

  • Northampton Activity on Referral Scheme - referral programme from Health Care Professionals
  • Northampton Health Walk Scheme - free to access, volunteer-led health walks
  • Northampton Street Sports Programme (NSSP) - free-to-access weekly sports sessions delivered in priority wards
  • Falls Prevention Programmes - delivery of older adults Falls Prevention programmes
  • Trilogy Adult Weight Management Programme - commissioned by Northamptonshire Public Health
  • NHS Health Checks - delivered in partnership with the Northampton General Practice Alliance

Focusing primarily on health and wellbeing, the Trust work with partners from a sporting perspective. The strategy includes a key element around the staff to provide them with a good understanding of health and wellbeing, with the introduction of Wellbeing Champions across the sites who will be paid for a number of hours a month to enable better support of customers and partners. 

The impact

The impact that the Trust has had can be seen in a number of different areas.

Headlines include:

  • Reducing local authority operating costs with a zero-management fee.
  • Approximately £4 million re-invested into Leisure and Wellbeing facilities.
  • External funding attracted for Community Outreach Projects each year.

An independent study by the University of Northampton looking at the Social Impact of the Trust published in 2018 (see link below) reported a total social impact of just under £3.6 million each year.

The Trust produce an annual report (next one due in November 2022) which outlines the programme impact and case studies are produced across key areas.

As well as the impact in terms of social value, participation and individual case studies, there is system impact and external recognition that the Trust can boast.

For example, for many years the Trust have scored very highly in Quest, the UK sport and leisure industry’s quality mark. This year, the team won the UK Active Generation Active Award for their junior programme, chosen above some much larger organisations including the LTA and GLL. 

Furthermore, as a result of their track record and work influencing and lobbying, the Trust are now seen as a very important player in reducing inactivity and improving health and wellbeing. They are being invited onto groups that they would not have been previously, for example the Trust were asked to support work on pulmonary rehab and respiratory systems and prepared with partners a new community pathway to assist the amount of people ‘stuck in the system’ and requiring support in this area. 

The work that the Trust have been involved in within health has started to open doors to other initiatives with the Trust being invited to contribute and give opinion. 

How is the new approach being sustained?

The Trust are taking a mixed approach to sustainability of the organisation, with a number of different elements coming together.

The Trust does not receive core funding and therefore one of the approaches is to expand their portfolio e.g. taking on the additional dual use site at the Academy. The medium term plan, through the wellbeing strategy, is to charge slightly more to those who can afford it and use this revenue to support those that can’t afford the services currently. 

In addition, by building the partnerships and collaboration where the Trust can access funding e.g. through the ICS as they focus on health and social inequalities in the area. The Trust have some excellent partnerships and it is the emerging ICS and health partnerships that they see as key to sustainability and through using data to identify gaps in Northampton. Positioning themselves to be in the right place for some of the commissioning work through the ICS fits the social enterprise model in terms of generating funding to reinvest, however it is also seen by the Trust as the right thing to do for the local communities.

The Trust are also on the Board for the five localities (with a centre in each) and can help set some of the objectives for those localities. They meet with the new Director of Public Health and senior ICS representatives. Due to their work over the last 12 years, the Trust have positioned themselves in such a way that they span the different strands of the ICS and are ideally placed to have an important strategic supporting role to play. 

To summarise, the Trust’s approach is to:

  • Work with partners and increase collaboration
  • Expand outwardly their current services
  • Be the best they can be at what they already provide
  • Manage expenditure very efficiently and look at new sources of income. 

Lessons learned

  • The Trust have recognized that working in health and wellbeing is a ‘long game’ and you have to build relationships which takes time.
  • It is important to work with partners who can refer into your services and they need to be what people need. The only way to find out what people need is to speak to them, build the relationships and then provide a very good service.
  • The Trust have given their staff an understanding of what health and wellbeing is, the barriers that people face, complexities and live it with their customers. The Wellbeing Champions are a good example of this, where staff have a personalised care background and can support individuals effectively.
  • Help your staff to understand as much as possible first whilst building partnerships so that you are ready to take whatever is needed, with the need based on identified gaps. 
  • Providing services whilst being sustainable and having a commercial/social balance.


Lawrence Kay, Director of Wellbeing and Enterprise

[email protected]

Further resources