Carlisle’s Sands Centre approved as budget rises to £26m

The city council has signed off the redevelopment of the leisure centre, a project that has been planned since 2009, although the scheme will now cost nearly £26m instead of the originally-planned £14m.

Giving final approval to the scheme at a meeting this week, the council said the plans for the Sands Centre would be “transformational” for the city. Contractor Wates, working with QS Pick Everard, is due to start work on the scheme in November this year with completion scheduled for July 2021.

The plans will see nearly 40,000 sq ft added to the existing centre, which will more than double the floorspace of the existing leisure facilities.

The new facilities will include a reception area, a four-court sports hall, a 25m eight-lane swimming pool, a 20m learner pool, wet and dry changing facilities, a 120-station fitness suite, studios, a café, bar, and a physiotherapy suite.

Existing facilities, including a climbing wall and squash court, will be lost as part of the redevelopment; the council said both facilities did not have enough demand and there were alternative facilities nearby, including the Eden Rock bouldering centre at the Durranhill Industrial Estate.

A total of 231 car parking spaces will be provided, a loss of 63 spaces compared to the site’s previous offering.

Costs, however, have risen steadily through the project’s process. The council’s original estimate was £14.2m, but a review by Pick Everard at RIBA stage two put the project’s cost at just over £19m. Following a series of further reviews this has eventually risen to more than £25.5m.

Construction costs are expected to be around £18m and have not seen any major increases. Around £1.6m to be spent on temporary accommodation while the works are ongoing; here, costs have tripled after a series of reviews. Similarly, £1.5m is needed for immediate repairs to the building, a figure not included in the original RIBA stage two review.

The project was previously mooted in 2009 before falling victim to the downfall of the Northwest Regional Development Agency and the withdrawal of a capital contribution from the University of Cumbria. The council’s planning committee approved the scheme in November last year.

The design team on the project includes GT3 Architects as lead; CJ Consilium as principal designer, Buro Happold on civil, structural and M&E engineering and flood risk consultancy; OOBE as landscape architect; and Pace as acoustic consultant.

Dave Saville, business unit director for Wates Construction North West, said: “We welcome the go ahead for The Sands Leisure Centre, which once built will be a state-of-the-art facility for the local community.

“The project has been procured via Scape Group’s Major Works UK, which will enable us to create many local benefits through our partnership with Carlisle City Council.

“The Wates team has been focussed on our strategy for local investment, which to-date has seen us engage local supply chain partners in Carlisle. We look forward to building on this in the coming months as we prepare to start construction later this year.”

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