M Brookes presented the report and introduced Richard Thompson of Hadron Consulting and David McHendry of Knight, Kavanagh and Page. M Brookes provided an update from April 2021 and confirmed they are currently at stage 2 and working with key stakeholders, developing site options, assessing the facility mix, and developing the initial capital cost and business revenue plan. Following this, authority will be sought from Cabinet to progress to stage 3 to develop the design for planning application and undertake first stage contractor procurement. Stage 4 will then look to develop the technical side of the scheme, and a report will come back to Cabinet at the close of stage 4.
R Thompson of Hadron Consulting provided an overview of stage 2, noting the challenges of the site and the number of engagement meetings held so far. A number of facility mixes were proposed, and a hybrid model of the essential and desirable facility mixes was presented with a wet side, dry side, community side, and outside facilities. External facilities would comprise of around 150 car parking spaces and a number of options to improve Lagley Meadow.
The Chairman queried if the proposal showed a nursery or creche. R Thompson confirmed that the plan incorporates the Happy Days Nursery already onsite.
Cllr Mahmood asked if the square meterage of the pool and fitness area remain the same as the current design. D Hendry of Knight, Kavanagh and Page advised that the swimming pool area has increased with the inclusion of the teaching pool and splash pad. The health and fitness area is also larger with additional studios, which is a key driver for income generation.
R Thompson presented the strategic moves, noting particular attention to the sloped area from Douglas Gardens to Gossoms End, the Lagley Meadow connection, and looking to make an active roofscape. Looking at the design approach, R Thompson presented the existing site and advised that the nursery and 5-a-side pitches will need to be temporarily or permanently removed to allow room for construction of the new centre. The nursery are being engaged with to arrange a temporary facility and then bring back into the scheme, and football will be provided for elsewhere. The current constraints of the site were noted with underground utilities, which would require considerable funds to move, and keeping the existing site open.
Cllr Adeleke asked how much the existing site would be expanded by. R Thompson noted the current site ownership and confirmed that the new centre will be larger at just under 7,000sqm compared to 5,000sqm at present, though the overall site area will remain the same. New access from Gossoms End will bring traffic in off the main road and into a new car park, which will provide temporary parking during construction.
R Thompson next looked to the landscape strategy, noting that they are compensating for any tree loss to create new site access and that both entrances will be fully accessible. There are a number of intentions for the roof, including a running track and yoga space. R Thompson also acknowledged Lagley Meadow and the retention of the football pitch, advising that they may look at tiered seating around the pitch and adding a play space, learn to ride facility and pump tracks to look at how the building can be linked to the outdoor space.
Cllr Adeleke asked if solar energy was being considered for the roof. R Thompson advised that the intention is that this is within the scheme, that other roofs will be as lightweight as possible, and they are also taking resident views into account, which will be developed as part of the next stage.
Cllr Harden supported the incorporation of the running track from the meadow and onto the roof. Cllr Harden queried what facilities are chargeable or free access. R Thomson confirmed that the contract with the existing operator continues and that the use of the roof running track would require controlled access. D McHendry advised that they are looking at a partially covered outdoor space that can be accessed from the fitness suite, and anything that requires entering the building will be chargeable and additional outdoor activities could be part of this. D McHendry confirmed they are working with the operator on this and that they recognise that Lagley Meadow is a sensitive component that is currently considered a high-value, low-quality open space with the scheme looking to improve this and link it into the operation of the facility. R Thompson added that they wouldn’t be charging people to use Lagley Meadow other than for specific activities and it would remain an open space.
Cllr Pringle referred to the parties currently engaged with and recommended the inclusion of Northchurch Parish Council. It was also noted that Ashlyns School was engaged with despite having a sports facility on site and that primary schools would be using the facility, including St Mary’s and Westfield Primary School. Cllr Pringle also commented that ParentMail would be an effective tool to engage with the local schools and their communities. Cllr Pringle then noted a request that the changing facilities include a hoist. R Thompson confirmed that a Changing Places facility is included within the brief and will be a public facility.
Cllr Hollinghurst recommended the installation of ground source coils to provide heating and photovoltaic cells in place of the sun deck. R Thompson presented a slide on the sustainability strategy for the building and a number of renewables that are being considered. R Thompson explained that the swimming pools orientate south to capture solar gain and that thermal zoning, materiality and future flexibility is key. R Thompson then looked at Passivhaus design and that lessons can be learnt from new schemes though it is still a new offer. A microfiltration system is being proposed to reduce water turnover and usage as well as chemical usage, which also reduces the need to reheat more water. Sustainable construction is also being considered to reduce the weight of the building and during the next phase, the full cost of keeping the building fully insulated will be set out. R Thompson confirmed that ground source heat pumping isn’t coming out favourably due to Lagley Meadow’s distance from the plant and capital costs, though this will be reconsidered during the next phase of design.
Cllr Freedman commented on the public consultation of Lagley Meadow and urged that there be a dual term for the land as Lagley Meadow is where the site sits and the open space is known as East Meadow. R Thompson confirmed that the right terminology would be captured before plans go into the public domain.
R Thompson presented the 4 key phases of development:
· Off-siting of the nursery and football pitches and the creation of new access and car park, and diversion of any facilities.
· Creating a safe zone to allow the existing centre to remain open.
· Construction of the new centre.
· Replacement of the existing leisure centre with the football facility.
Looking at footfall, M Brookes noted the issue of 3G pitch provision during construction and that they are looking for alternatives across Berkhamstead and are considering a permanent solution that could then free up part of the site for other uses. 3 sites have been proposed:
· Bridgewater Primary School
· The Thomas Coram Church of England School
· Durrants Lane
All 3 options will be pursued, and it was noted that the school sites could be utilised by pupils during school hours.
M Brookes then looked to the opportunities should the 3G pitches be relocated offsite on a permanent basis, including the potential for a residential development of approximately 50 units and this will be explored during the next phase.
Cllr Pringle commented that the 3G pitches would require additional facilities, such as toilets and changing areas, and that Durrants Lane doesn’t have the infrastructure for this. D McHendry advised that a new pitch would be significantly larger than the current pitches onsite, and this would help address any shortfall in training provision in the area and would be subject to a Football Foundation application to receive funding for this. D McHendry noted that Raiders currently have plans for the Durrants Lane site for facilities and that the FA will only provide changing facilities where adult football is played on the site though they do look to offer a small toilet block, kitchen and meeting space to allow clubs to develop their sustainability. Discussions are ongoing with potential partners to look at the potential solution for the loss of the current 3G pitches.
D McHendry noted the proposed facility mixes, explaining that the key differences are around the provision of the splash pad, which is a key income generator, a smaller sports hall, a larger health and fitness suite and the provision of the spa. D McHendry confirmed that the main differences will be evaluated during the next phase.
R Thompson advised that the scheme is being priced based on the sustainability scheme and this will be developed more fully with the Passivhaus criteria adding a further 6-12% to the overall cost of the building. Further considerations include the S.278, Lagley Meadow options, the current contract, volatile building costs, and the potential loss of football revenue during construction.
D McHendry presented the business case for the spa facility. 12 spa facilities have been identified within a 60-minute drive and a further site in Amersham that is due to open. D McHendry noted Member concern regarding the number of treatment facilities in the area and 60 smaller venues have been identified though they don’t offer a day-spa experience or access to a wet environment. The new competitor will be the new spa at Chilterns Lifestyle Centre in Amersham though it will be run by the same operator and can therefore be marketed appropriately. Cllr Pringle noted that there is also a spa in the Pendley Manor Hotel in Tring.
Cllr Mahmood confirmed that he is fully supportive of the recommendations.
M Brookes presented an overview of the next stages, explaining that this will focus on the feasibility of the offsite 3G options, to look at the residential plan, address the sustainability scheme, finalise the funding structure, look at pre-application advice with planners, and seek approval from Cabinet on the 3G pitches and residential considerations.
R Thompson noted the delivery programme, confirming that public consultation may be in 2022 and will be a key part of the next stage. The preferred contractor for the design stages will be identified early on and a planning application is planned for the start of Q2 2022 with a view to have building completed by summer 2024.
Cllr Adeleke confirmed his support of the project and that he felt the plan was an example of how forward-looking the council is. Cllr Adeleke noted a number of points of caution, urging that all climate change considerations be taken into account. It was also noted that a number of key partners have been missed and Cllr Adeleke advised that they speak to Cllr Pringle to ensure all relevant partners are included. Cllr Adeleke then noted the proposed 2024 completion date and queried how realistic this was. R Thompson noted the concerns around climate change considerations and that they are ensuring that the building and designs can be adapted to keep up with technology. On missing consultees, R Thompson requested that any suggestions be sent to M Brookes. R Thompson acknowledged the programme risk, advising that the procurement route looks to get a contractor on board as soon as possible to develop the programme and the key issues are around approvals, though the current timeline is benchmarked against similar facilities and therefore feels achievable.
Cllr Freedman commented that he would like to see the council acting as a community leader during this project and that it be the gold standard in sustainability. Cllr Freedman noted the cost of full Passivhaus certification and requested that this remain an option and that value for money be lower in priority.
Cllr Freedman noted the facility mix options and asked how these were selected, commenting that the facilities appear to cover what is already provided rather than what is required. D McHendry advised that the needs assessment considers all sport and physical activity facilities across Dacorum to support feasibility and key requirements. A multi-layered approach considers demand, and that provisions such as squash and indoor tennis take up a large amount of space with relatively low numbers of users.
Cllr Pringle commented on the need to have a consultation around accessibility for users with sensory issues and requested rooms that can be adapted.
Cllr Pringle noted the investment of public money in the facility and asked if small businesses will have the opportunity to hire out rooms. D McHendry acknowledged the number of spaces currently being hired out and confirmed that they have looked at having a number of treatment and multipurpose rooms. D McHendry added that they have looked at demedicalised areas to ensure the centre can accommodate these and incorporate a number of 1-to-1 and group treatments. M Brookes commented that a key element of the next stage will be public consultation.
Cllr Hollinghurst advised that any proposed car parks would be an opportunity for installing a 7.4kW charging post and would provide additional income generation. R Thompson confirmed there are EV charging points in the car park with future room for growth if required.
Cllr Harden requested that they consider mental health and use of outdoor space, and that they need to consider what is desirable against what is financially feasible. Cllr Harden confirmed his support of the recommendations so far and that he looked forward to further discussions.
The Committee formally noted the report and recommendations.