Sands Centre Carlisle

Council backs £19m Sands Centre overhaul

Carlisle City Council has given the go-ahead to a £19m redevelopment of the Sands Centre paving the way for the project to begin, nearly 10 years after it was first put forward.

The project focusses on the replacement of the city’s James Street pools and expansion of the Sands Centre, which is an entertainments hall also used for sports. It was previously proposed 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 plans will see nearly 40,000 sq ft added to the building, 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.

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.

The council started the procurement process for a main contractor earlier this year; this is likely to be carried out via the North West Construction Hub or Scape’s National Framework.

Work could start on site next spring and is set to complete by the end of 2020.

The scheme was given the go-ahead by Carlisle’s planning committee last week, although there had been some objections from Carlisle Flood Action Group. The centre was flooded in 2015 along with large areas of the town after Storm Desmond, and the Flood Action Group argued the redevelopment of the centre “could make any future flooding worse”.

However, planners said the existing building was already “protected by existing flood defences”, and added that any development would mean flood levels could be increased by 10mm “which would not be significant”.

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