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Kingsmead Leisure Centre revamp back on table after £2 million knocked off cost by Fusion Lifestyle

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A long-awaited makeover of a district’s most-used sports centre is back on the table after £2 million was knocked off the estimated cost.

Initial work on the development at Kingsmead Leisure Centre began early last year, with the project budgeted to cost £10.5m.

The centre's swimming pool is planned to undergo a revamp
The centre's swimming pool is planned to undergo a revamp

But the construction was brought to a halt in the April after the pandemic struck, with the scheme put on hold.

Now, the cash-strapped city council, which owns the building and leases it to Active Life, is set to consider a cheaper alternative.

New plans have been drawn up for a refurbishment that will cost £8.3m - a saving of £2.2m.

The biggest change has seen Active Life’s parent company, Fusion Lifestyle, ditch its vision to build a new sports hall on stilts.

The elevated structure would have allowed cars to park underneath, but the new-build option has been scrapped in favour of renovating the existing sports hall at the Kingsmead Road site.

A proposed children’s soft play area is also now off the table, and has been replaced with a “flexible kids’ zone” which can be set up and dismantled for specific sessions.

A larger gym, three new fitness studios, refurbished changing facilities, a cafe and party room are all included in the plans.

The project will be funded with a capital loan secured by the council and paid back by Fusion over 30 years following the completion of the works, which is expected to be in October 2023.

A “critical improvement” the council hopes to achieve with the leisure centre’s revamp is a reduction in carbon emissions.

Kingsmead produces the highest annual emissions of all authority-owned buildings in the district.

A total of 670 tonnes of CO2 were generated in 2019, with 75% coming from gas used by boilers to heat the swimming pool.

Kingsmead Leisure Centre Picture: Andy Jones
Kingsmead Leisure Centre Picture: Andy Jones

Having declared a climate emergency two years ago, the council has pledged to ensure its services are net-zero in carbon emissions by 2030 - meaning it does not add pollutants to the atmosphere.

New ventilation systems, air conditioning upgrades and LED lighting will all be installed.

An additional £20,000 is recommended to be set aside to explore potential options to improve the swimming pool’s carbon footprint.

The council admits reducing the pool’s emissions will cost a “substantial amount” - but as it currently is, a high proportion of the energy used to heat the pool is lost through the ventilation system.

The authority says further delays to the leisure centre renovation will effect costs as “Brexit is already having an impact on building inflation”.

New fitness studios will be built at Kingsmead
New fitness studios will be built at Kingsmead

District residents have been awaiting the redevelopment for years, and if it not carried through, officers warn the council will suffer reputational harm.

A report will be presented to councillors at a meeting of the authority’s policy committee on Monday.

It states: “Unless the centre is refurbished, group exercise and gym customers will be attracted to competitors with newer facilities and swimmers will be deterred by the current changing facilities, with no other local options for those on low incomes.

“Not investing in Kingsmead Leisure Centre would see the continued deterioration of facilities further impacting on the customer experience resulting in potential loss of income that would mean that the centre would no longer be financially viable to operate.”

“The leisure market in Canterbury is increasingly competitive.

“This option will give the provider a competitive edge.”

Councillors will vote to agree on the budget for the project, as well as determining whether to allocate £770,000 for refurbishment work at Whitstable swimming pool and £630,000 at Herons Leisure Centre in Herne Bay.

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