Mud Baths for the Masses

The £3 million redevelopment of Pendle Leisure Trust's, Pendle Wavelengths in East Lancashire officially opened at the end of June, bringing true 5* spa facilities to the masses.

All round wellness

Wavelength JacuzziThe holistic wellness centre is expected to be an inspiration for leisure providers across the world, not just for its luxury spa facilities, but for its unique integrated focus on health, fitness and well-being as an overall package. Members will be inducted to Inside Spa at the same time as the state-of-the-art fitness suite and offered a wellness programme that covers exercise and relaxation, including home based activities to ensure their goals are achievable.

Pendle Leisure Trust is, not surprisingly, proud to be the first public sector site to launch such an innovative approach to health and well-being. After all, the World Health Organisation (WHO) predicts that depression will become the leading burden of disease in developed societies in just 15 years time, and depression is already the third leading cause of 'years of lost quality of life' - ranking above cancers, stroke, diabetes, and obstructive lung disease.

Chief Executive Phil Storey said: "We know that stress is a major health concern and want to compliment our fitness element with an experience that enables the local community to relax and focus on their inner well-being as well."

Medical Benefits

Across Europe, spa treatments are widely recognised for their medical benefits and healing powers and thermal water is used to treat a range of disorders including cardiovascular problems, metabolism upsets and respiratory complaints. In fact, in Germany the 'Kur' or 'Cure System' acts as preventative health care leg to the country's National Health System where patients are admitted for a two four week stay at a spa resort for treatments and relaxation.

In addition to the myriad of relaxation and beauty elements you would hope to see in any top-end spa, the Trust is taking the lead from its European counterparts and intends to take spa back to its roots and help people with illnesses or injuries. Links are being formed with the local Primary Care Trust, GPs and physiotherapists to provide patient referrals for medical spa treatments, such as massage, reflexology and facials for muscle tension, back problems and skin concerns.

"The eight-person hydrotherapy pool is already booked each morning for a team of physiotherapists working on people with muscle and joint problems," said Inside Spa's manager Emma Roberts, who was plucked from Center Parcs Aqua Sana where she managed a team of 38 therapists, following a five-year stint working her way up the cruise ship rigging. Emma started with Steiner Transocean as a therapist and went on to manage three cruise liners and the $3 million refurbishment of her final ship's spa under Carnival Cruise Liners.

Stylish mosaic wash hand basinsAcross the UK most spas have a price tag to match their luxury surroundings with the average price of a spa visit costing £50 a pop. Maybe that's why the State of the UK Spa Industry Report by The Leisure Database Company found that a mere 10% of the UK's population currently use spas.

Inside Spa

In stark contrast, at Inside Spa a two-hour spa session costs only £10. Added to that, Pendle Leisure Trust's fitness members receive a 20% discounted entry to ensure maximum value for money and loyalty for existing customers. Guests are treated like royalty and provided with towels and robes as well as refreshments following a treatment. "The spa experience is all about creating the right atmosphere and delivering a quality service," Emma continued. "P81 bought into our brand vision straight away with the spa accessories, which was a must because the finishing touches really do make all the difference."

Inside Spa, which will be staffed by nine full time therapists, offers all the high-end products that you'd expect to see in a top destination spa too, with strategic product partners Thalgo for skincare, Susan Posnick Mineral Make up from Skin Brands, Gerrard International for The Jessica Nailcare System and St Tropez spray tan.

"Pendle Wavelengths offers a value-for-money, family experience that is usually only available in exclusive, high-expense private sector complexes," Phil Storey added. "Inside Spa's prices will be much more competitive than standard private spas, meaning the facilities will be accessible to everyone."

So, how does a local authority manage to offer such an amazing experience and still way out price its private competitors?

Pendle Treatment room

The redevelopment of the existing 1980's Pendle Wavelengths leisure pool, just a mile from the M65, was carried out with strategic partner Alliance Spa, Alliance Leisure's spa partnership arm, which project managed and provided £2 million funding towards the unique venture. The remaining £1 million came from Single Regeneration Budget funding from the North-West Development Agency and Pendle Partnership - an alliance of organisations and people from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors committed to the economic, social and environmental regeneration of Pendle. The entire spa and fitness development of Pendle Wavelengths is supported and underwritten by Pendle Borough Council.

Sarah Watts, Managing Director of Alliance Leisure, is pretty open with her views that private spas are seriously over priced. But even so she admits the financial pressures simply aren't the same for public and private operators. "Whilst they need to cover their costs and be sustainable, local authority sites aren't looking for the same return on their investment," she said. "Plus they have a duty to the community to remodel outdated centres and develop the space to a more appropriate mix for today's leisure needs."

Alliance Spa worked with architects Pozzoni, the building company Dean and Bowes and spa equipment experts Dalesauna to deliver this world-class facility. Gerard McCarthy, Sales Director at Dalesauna said: "Pendle is the first local authority trust to offer a spa of this scale and quality, and the equipment and experiences, enhanced by the high standard of finish, put Inside Spa on a par with any private sector facility."

The Trust has also entered into a five-year partnership with Alliance Spa to support the development with spa specific consultancy, including negotiations with strategic partners to provide the best brand proposition and support structure from product houses, structuring and development of the treatment and package menu, design of a bespoke sales process for all spa treatments and services, pre-sale set up including sales and marketing and the recruitment and training of spa staff.

The spa arm mirrors Alliance Leisure's fitness partnership programme and works on a performance related income share basis so that, from completion, Alliance Spa bears all the costs up front with the Trust only paying commission when membership payments exceed an agreed threshold.

We can expect the spa industry to boom in the next 10 years, according to Alliance Spa's Berni Hawkins, the name behind a number of highly successful private spa ventures, including Champneys and Oyster Spas. "Spa is in its infancy, just as the fitness market was 10 years ago," she said. "This has lead many local authorities to see spas as something that's glamorous and expensive, that's not for their client base, but this doesn't have to be the case, and we hope that the launch of this public sector spa will convince local authorities and trusts that offering high quality relaxation and treatment facilities is the natural next step."

But what does this mean for destination spas?

Berni believes there's room in the market for everyone and that the rise of affordable spas could in fact open destination spas to a wider market. "Raising the profile of spas, particularly as a form of relaxation, stress relief and cure for minor ills can only be a good thing," she said.

"At present destination spas are seen as something aspirational, but they need to become the norm, a lifestyle choice, where people reinvest money they are already spending in something that will have a more beneficial effect on their well-being something that will help them achieve their goals or reward them for hitting them. For instance, giving up smoking is stressful, but they could reinvest some of the money they save on cigarettes in visiting a spa to alleviate that stress. People losing weight could use the spa as a reward and invest some of the money they would previously have spent on a coffee and a muffin on a spa treatment."

"If people are routinely comfortable with using a wet spa for their general day-to-day well-being they are more likely to visit a destination spa for holiday or weekend break to really relax and rejuvenate and come out fighting fit to face the rat race again."

Whilst Alliance intends to prove its concept through Inside Spa's success, business is already looking good for the spa arm with several other local authorities some way down the road to launching their own spa and fitness models.

Sarah Watts said: "We hope to take this spa model on the same journey we have with fitness over the last ten years. Many local authority fitness facilities now rival their private counterparts and with Government targets focussing more and more on lifestyle and wellness, the joint fitness and spa model begins to make more and more sense for the public sector. I would expect to see another five public sector spas under construction within the next year."

The true proof of this stress-busting haven is anchored in the healing powers of its water therapies and treatments. But one thing's for sure, if the pre opening interest in Inside Spa is anything to go by, local authority spas could soon be springing up all over the country.

At Inside Spa more than £280,000 worth of Dalesauna products create the same high levels of interior and experience you would expect in an exclusive 5* spa retreat

  • Sanarium
  • Sauna
  • Hydrotherapy pool
  • Salt inhalation steam room
  • Aromatherapy room
  • Foot spas
  • Rasul mud bath
  • Dry flotation room
  • Ice fountai
  • Monsoon showers
  • Three dedicated treatment rooms offering a range of therapeutic and revitalising treatments for the whole body

New members will be inducted to Inside Spa at the same time as Pendle Wavelengths Activo fitness suite, which boasts 55 Life Fitness stations suitable for those new to exercise right through to advanced gymgoers, and ideal for younger users in the 'active' zone too.

The 'active' zone is a junior fitness suite specially created by ZigZag to offer the latest interactive fitness solutions designed to teach children sporting skills, build stamina and improve co-ordination whilst having fun. Stations will include Machine Dance computer lead dance platforms, Exer-Station Pro muscle strengthening game controllers and Sportwall interactive reaction panels.

A variety of fitness classes will be programmed for the dance studio, including yoga, Pilates, circuit training, Tai bo and spinning. And an OFSTED registered creche will ensure the whole family can enjoy the centre, including the original Pendle Wavelengths leisure pool with water slide and wave machine, built in 1989 and already popular with families from all over Lancashire and the North West.


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