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Commonwealth gold medallist, Matt Clay, returns to Chard for first pool swim, as new Leisure Centre opens to the public

| Your Area West

Councillors and community members were joined yesterday (Monday 8 November) by Commonwealth gold medal-winning swimmer, Matthew Clay, for the opening of the new Chard Leisure centre.

Matt, who won gold in 50m backstroke at the 2006 Commonwealth games, returned to his roots in Chard for the first swim in the leisure centre’s brand new pool. Members of Matt’s previous swimming club, Trident Swimming Club (formerly Chard Swimming Club) and Freedom Leisure Chief Executive, Ivan Horsfall-Turner, put him to the test with a two-length race.

Matthew Clay in the pool

Matthew Clay in the pool with Freedom Leisure Chief Executive, Ivan Horsfall-Turner, and Trident Swimming Club members Noah O’Reilly (11), Phoebe Clark (17), Manon Heard (15) and Millie Downes (17). Photo by Deborah Johnson

The new leisure centre boasts a five-lane adult swimming pool, a beginner’s pool, cafe, children's soft play area and gym with additional studios.

Work began back in November 2019 as part of South Somerset District Council’s Chard Regeneration Project. SSDC has since invested £16.5 million into the site, enabling it to be transformed from a derelict area of the town centre at the Boden Mill to the newest leisure facility in South Somerset.

Leader of the Council, Cllr Val Keitch said: “Investing in the future of South Somerset is at the heart of our Council Plan and our vision to ensure we live in a place where our communities are safe, vibrant and healthy and have access to exceptional leisure activities. That is exactly what we have delivered in Chard.

“I am so proud of the hard work and dedication of all involved to get the centre open on schedule, despite the challenges.”

Cllr Jason Baker added: “I am very pleased to see the leisure centre open. It is a facility that will benefit the whole community. Thank you to all the local communities, groups and organisations who have helped with the project – from the initial plans and consultations through to the opening event today.

“And the leisure centre is definitely not the end of our work in Chard. I am excited to see the work in our high street progressing to ensure we make improvements that will have a positive impact on the town’s future.”

the official ribbon cutting

Portfolio holder for Chard Regeneration, Cllr Jason Baker, and Leader of the Council, Cllr Val Keitch join Matthew Clay for the official ribbon cutting. Photo by Deborah Johnson.

Freedom Leisure will operate the new centre on behalf of South Somerset District Council with construction work led by Alliance Leisure.

For more information, visit

To view opening hours, class timetables and bookings, visit Freedom Leisure Chard:

What is Chard Regeneration?

Following extensive research and guided by suggestions previously made by Chard residents, South Somerset District Council has worked with partners to develop an ambitious strategy to bring significant changes to Chard and the community.

​We have also been awarded £1 million of Government high street funding through Historic England’s High Street Heritage Action Zone programme and this has been match-funded by SSDC, giving a total of over £2 million to spend in the historic heart of Chard’s shopping area.

​This money will be invested in and around Chard Fore Street, including repairs to a number of historic buildings, renovating shopfronts and improving the streetscape to make it safer and more attractive to residents, businesses, visitors and shoppers.

The aim of the HSHAZ programme is to make the high street a more attractive, engaging and vibrant place for people to live, work and spend time.

You can find out more about the Chard Regeneration programme on our official website –

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