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Hospitality veteran Belinda Steward takes the helm at Places Leisure

Places Leisure has appointed a new managing director of leisure, health & wellbeing
Belinda Steward brings a history of cultural transformation and team-building
Her previous experience includes leadership roles at Greene King and Häagen-Dazs
Steward will be exploring the synergies between leisure and hospitality
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University of Brighton
£23,144 to £25,138pa
location: Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
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Social enterprise, Places Leisure, which is part of the Places for People Group, has appointed Belinda Steward as MD.

Steward was previously MD at Derwent FM, which is also part of Places for People (PFP).

Before joining PFP she held a number of leadership roles, including for hospitality brands such as Greene King, Wyndham Hotel Group and Häagen-Dazs and has a history of embedding excellent customer service, building teams and cultural transformation.

Steward says of her appointment: “There are many parallels between the leisure and hospitality industry, and I’m looking forward to exploring these synergies and strengthening our culture in a way that promotes outstanding customer service throughout and ultimately continues to put our customers at the heart of everything we do. Through doing this we help to create and support healthy communities.”

Places Leisure manages 101 leisure facilities on behalf of its local authority partners, receiving 30 million visits a year and won the outstanding operator of the year award at the most recent UK Active Awards.

Steward will be the third leader within four years, taking over from Oliver Lee who joined in July 2022. Previous to Lee, Paul McPartlan led the organisation from 2020 to 2022.

The company registered positive results in its most recent accounts – year to March 2023 – with 34 councils under contract and turnover of £145.5 million. Operating profits were £43 million, gross profits £23.3 million and profits after tax £17 million.

The company had a payroll of £61.7 million and £746k of capital commitments.

Parent company, Places for People is involved in a wide range of homebuilding and urban regeneration projects across the UK.

In financial year 2023, the company had a turnover of £849.6 million, an operating profit of £167 million and reserves of £877.8 million. It also had fixed assets of £5.4 billion.

Places Leisure was originally Crossland Leisure, a company founded by Dave Cross and John Staniland on 12 April 1984 to run the Arena Leisure Centre in Camberley, making it the first local authority private sector contracting business.

The company was renamed DC Leisure (Dave Cross) following the departure of John Staniland on 25 September 1990 and traded under this name until it was acquired by Places for People in late 2012 to create the foundation for Places Leisure.

HCM editor, Liz Terry, said: "One of my first assignments as a rookie reporter for Leisure Media was to attend the launch of Crossland Leisure at the Arena Leisure Centre in 1984 and it's been quite a journey to see how the the industry has grown and matured through the hard word and passion of so many generations of leaders."

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