Councillors to consider next step in possible rebuild of Wellingborough leisure centre

The cost of a new facility in the grounds of Redwell Leisure Centre would be £8.5 million

Saturday, 7th November 2020, 6:00 am

Councillors will discuss the next step in the possible redevelopment of Wellingborough's Redwell Leisure Centre next week.

Wellingborough Council's Redwell Leisure Centre is managed and operated on their behalf under a single contract with Places Leisure until 2028.

The centre has been operational for more than 25 years and the fabric of the building is showing its age.

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Redwell Leisure Centre in Barnwell Road, Wellingborough

The council has been looking at options to develop the facilities, and its services committee will discuss the next step on Tuesday (November 10).

If redevelopment goes ahead, the proposed mix of indoor services on site would include a six or eight court sports hall, larger gym, studio spaces for classes and health and well-being activities, indoor and outdoor accessed changing facilities with a possible space for soft play.

It is hoped this would complement the outdoor all-weather 3G football pitch, grass football pitch and bowling green and provide extended car parking facilities.

There may also be potential for adding a swimming pool.

The indicative cost of providing such a building (without a swimming pool) in the existing grounds of Redwell Leisure Centre was in the region of £8.5 million.

The only capital currently allocated to such a scheme is through the Section 106 programme for Wellingborough North, which would yield a capital income of £1.466 million index linked, estimated to be due over the next eight years.

Extra capital would have to be added, either by the council or an external provider to bring the scheme to fruition.

In March, the council's resources committee agreed that the preferred option for the site would be a new build, but committee members wanted to fully understand the project risks and requested more detailed investigations and costings to support the design option.

Officers were instructed to further explore the revenue implications, procurement options and contractual arrangements.

RPT Consulting was asked to undertake further work to complete a pre-planning application and ground investigation survey and to consider future procurement.

Their report concludes that the project can progress with no significant impact requirements at this stage which would increase costs.

However, it also notes that the current Covid-19 situation has caused significant changes in the operating market and future position.

And the move to a unitary authority in April 2021 also now has a bearing on procurement and contractual decisions concerning major capital and asset-based projects.

So the recommendation is that the project is moved forward to full planning stage, with no further commitment at this stage.

A report prepared for councillors to consider ahead of next week's meeting says: "There is a high risk that if investment is not made into Redwell Leisure Centre, it will fail to meet health and safety standards.

"This would put it at risk of closure, or an unknown level of unbudgeted reactive maintenance costs to secure a minimum standard of operation.

"Failure to invest in sport and leisure facilities would impact negatively on the council’s ability to work with health partners to improve the health of residents and contribute positively to health and social care integration objectives.

"This could limit the opportunities for local people to participate in sport and leisure activities and put Wellingborough at a disadvantage against neighbouring towns, where such provision makes them a more attractive place to live, work and invest.

"Such a large project needs to be managed effectively and the council will need to call on external experts where necessary to give specialist advice and guidance to achieve the required planning permissions.

"There is a risk that an unsuitable design could lead to a mix of facilities that is not sustainable over the long term, therefore, designs should be explored to ensure a balanced offer of community participation and commercial activity.

"Given the timing of the move to unitary authority, there is a risk that, developed as a stand-alone project, the offer may not be the best for the north of the county overall, therefore, the recommendation is to take the project forward as far as obtaining planning permission and allow the new authority to make later decisions in the context of north Northamptonshire."

Councillors will be asked to note the findings in the report by RPT Consulting and to agree for the redevelopment project to be progressed to full planning stage.

The virtual services committee meeting starts at 7pm on Tuesday (November 10).

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