Image of spiral cable being installed by two workers


Oxford City Council was awarded Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme (PSDS 1) funding to decarbonise heating in the four council-run leisure centres (below) and cut emissions from the City’s largest carbon-emitting buildings.

  • Ferry Leisure Centre
  • Hinksey Outdoor Pool
  • Barton Leisure Centre
  • Leys Pools and Leisure Centre

Leisure centres currently contribute around 40% of the City Council’s carbon footprint, and swimming pools are among the most energy intensive as they must be kept at a constant temperature.  

The upgrade work, saw heating provided by gas boilers replaced with heat pumps that transfer heat from the air or water. The project aims to cut carbon emissions from the Council’s operations as a whole by around 21%.

The project directly supported key council aims to transition to a net zero city by 2040, and ensure future proofed leisure buildings to help provide a high quality leisure service while also reducing the impact on the environment. 


The project supported the council’s challenging aims to become a net zero carbon council by 2030.

Improvements were made building management systems, and new battery storage was installed across all the sites. At current electricity/gas prices, the project is expected to reduce operational running costs by approximately £200k/year, and reduce carbon emissions by around 960 tonnes of CO2 per year - an estimated 56% decrease across the four leisure buildings.

The project also supported the Council’s investment in Ray Valley Solar - a 17MW local solar farm. The energy generated by the Ray Valley Solar city project to Oxford City Council will offset up to 1000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually and will keep £2.6 million worth of energy spend in the local economy each year

Project timeline

The project is key to implementing the Council’s 4th Carbon Management Plan, which sets out how the Council will achieve net zero by 2030 for its estate and operations.

The project was largely funded with Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme grant funding (£10.9m) awarded in early 2021 as well as a contribution of around £2.1m from the council’s budget to update existing plant and enable integration of the heat pumps and batteries.

Work began on the project in the spring of 2021, and while the schedule for delivering this programme of work was ambitious, the project was completed in April 2022.

Consultation with residents

During the course of the project, consultations with residents were held. In particular at Hinksey Outdoor Pool, where a novel water source heat pump system extracts heat from a nearby lake. Stakeholder communications and workshops supported by the contractors has helped garner further support for the project aims.

The Council aims to ensure that all communities benefit from action on climate change, by reducing the carbon footprint of these leisure centres it secures the long-term future of the centres to provide valuable leisure and community spaces across the city.

Image showing heat pumps being installed. The heat pumps transfer heat from the water to heat Hinksey Outdoor Pool.

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