Mark Brookes, RT and DM gave an update on the new Sports Centre in the form of a presentation. The outcomes of stage 2 of the process were reported. At the end of the month, authority to proceed to stage 3 will be sought.
Previously, 2 facility mixes were presented to the Committee, essential and desirable. What has emerged is a hybrid facility mix, including a smaller sports hall, but bigger studios and a nursery and spa on site. The site slope will be incorporated in the design, including an active roof space. There may be a residential element.
A visual depiction of the site itself was shown, with colour-coded buildings. The nursery and 5-a-side pitch will be demolished. Elements pointed out on the graphic were the utilities crossing site, the construction zone, the footprint connecting to Lagley Meadow, the new car park, and new access. There will be 3 floors and an outside fitness zone.
Decisions have not been made on Lagley Meadow, this will be subject to public consultation. RT proposed keeping the grass pitch, but building a plaza, a play space, landscaping, and terraced seating.
It was established that the existing site will be kept going and will be built around. Phasing will be significant from a delivery aspect.
Low energy principles have been considered in these plans. Passive House certification will make the building airtight and efficient. This will create a capital impact.
M Brookes detailed the ongoing effort to move football provision off-site on a permanent basis. If it is moved to a school, this would be on a dual use agreement.
M Brookes reassured a member that there has been a discussion with Highways, and a discussion with DEFRA will take place regarding water.
Cllr Townsend declared that concept designs and consultation, and forecast project costs and approval strategy were noted. Also, the contractor procurement strategy was noted and endorsed, and the provision of further information was endorsed. However, they asked for clarification on what authority was being sought. The response was that authority was being sought from Cabinet, not from this meeting, and Cllr Townsend suggested addressing the wording to reflect this.
A question on where disabled parking will be was raised by Cllr Tindall. RT informed the Cllr that they have met with the accessibility officer during this period. There will be accessible and drop-off bays, a fully compliant ramp, and both sides of the building will be accessible.
Cllr Tindall urged that the public consultation take place before the residential element is firmed up. It was confirmed that both things would be done during the next stage, and that public consultation would take place early in stage 3. This will probably be a combination of a drop-in and some online sessions. Cllr Tindall requested a copy of the Gantt Chart on this matter. Action: M Brookes
Regarding sustainability, a question was raised about how the pool will be heated. The response was that there will be air-sourced heat pumps in the building, but the water will use a gas boiler. The technology does not exist to generate enough power to heat the water through heat pumps. However, all systems will be built with the ability to switch to new technology when it becomes viable. Energy prices have been taken into consideration, and the full sustainability scheme will be developed in the next stage.
M Brookes commented that they don’t expect significant changes in stage 3, so it is anticipated stage 4 will be moved onto without returning to the Council. Cllr Tindall returned to his point about public consultation, and how the public consultation should come back to the committee between stages 3 and 4.
Cllr Guest asked for clarification on the dimensions of the swimming pool. The pool will have 6 lanes and be 25 metres. The learner pool will be 12.5 metres by 10 metres. The floor is moveable with adjustable depth. There will not be enough spectator seating to make the pool suitable for national competitions, but the size of 25 metres will make it an excellent training facility.
A question about whether the size will be similar to the current facility was raised by Cllr Symington. The answer to this was not known, but it will be just shy of 7,000 metres. The answer to the Cllr’s question on capacity was also not known, but it is anticipated that there will be in excess of half a million visitors per year. The teaching pool and the larger studio spaces will accommodate more members.
Cllr Symington expressed their belief that the hybrid option may be a misnomer, and that the only thing reduced from the desirable mix was the number of courts. RT responded that the splash pad area has also been halved.
In response to a question by Cllr Symington about how to make sure the public are engaged and understand, M Brookes said that they were conscious not to go to the public too early, but that this is the right course of action for the next stage. Cllr Symington wished to see the process segmented and presented to the public as soon as possible.
Cllr Symington requested to know what the long-term view of leisure centres is, regarding people coming back after Covid-19. DM elucidated that they are seeing healthy recovery, especially from parents who want to get their children in for swimming lessons as they weren’t able to learn during the lockdown. The plan embraces outdoor space. Sport England are confident of membership returning to pre-Covid levels. A key opportunity built into the centre is de-medicalised interventions.
Cllr Tindall suggested a 7th recommendation. ‘That the Committee note that public consultation is to take place in stage 3, and the Committee requires a further report at the completion of stage 3, including a report on public consultation prior to stage 4. Notwithstanding the provisions of recommendation 4’. There were no objections. The Chair thanked Cllr Tindall.
Cllr Townsend didn’t believe that Tring Town Council was consulted.
Cllr Townsend noted but didn’t endorse the procurement strategy, as there was not enough detail.
Cllr Townsend asked to move in to Part 2. This was proposed, seconded and unanimously agreed.
(Part 2 discussion can be found in the Part 2 Minutes).