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Redevelopment of former Splashes, in Rainham, to begin in 2023 as contractor is appointed

A contractor has been appointed to build a state-of-the-art leisure centre, with swimming pools, a gym, fitness studio and café.

Willmott Dixon Construction Limited will be responsible for building the nearly £23.65 million facility to replace Splashes in Rainham, now coming in at five times the initial cost.

A CGI image of how the new centre might look. Picture: Space&Place
A CGI image of how the new centre might look. Picture: Space&Place

The building will have two swimming pools, a children’s fun pool with flume, wave ball pool and beach area, and a training pool for lane swimming and lessons, as well as a fitness gym and room for exercise classes and children’s parties.

It will also feature accessible changing rooms and electric charging parking spaces.

Building work at the site in Cozenton Park, Bloors Lane, is due to begin in the new year, although no specific date has been set.

Medway Council is investing £23.65m on the development, replacing former Splashes, which was demolished in earlier this year.

Initial plans to refurbish the pool, which is owned by the council and opened in 1990, were approved in July 2020 for £5m.

But extensive structural surveys found that the building had major structural faults which were deemed beyond economic repair, and it was advised to immediately be taken out of use.

In June 2021, the Cabinet approved the demolition of the building, and the following month the cabinet agreed to instruct officers to begin developing detailed proposals for a new Splashes sports centre.

The new facility will have swimming pools, a gym, and a café. Picture: Space&Place
The new facility will have swimming pools, a gym, and a café. Picture: Space&Place

Demolition began in January, and in March, the team submitted a formal planning application, projecting that the project could be delivered with a budget of £17.85 million.

The additional £12.85m in funding was approved by the council in June.

The multi-million-pound redevelopment has been a controversial topic among Medway councillors, who deemed plans to spend an additional £5.8m as "fiancially irresponsible".

Labour councillor Andy Stamp described the financial sums as "quite staggering".

He said: "Finding the ongoing annual revenue costs of £2.1 million is not insurmountable but it could have a significant impact on our resources at a time when the council is facing a huge financial hole in its budget, and which could jeopardise the provision of other core council services for the next 30 years.

"Without this report we are being asked to give the green light for a project without any ongoing funding streams, which in my view would be financially irresponsible and arguably reckless."

The centre also comes with ongoing annual revenue costs, which are estimated at £2.1 million, with £1.6 million servicing the loan and £500,000 in annual subsidy to operate the leisure centre.

Works on the Cozenton Park site are set to begin in the new year. Picture: Space&Place
Works on the Cozenton Park site are set to begin in the new year. Picture: Space&Place

Despite the criticisms, the project was given the go-ahead and it is anticipated that it will be ready to use as early as the summer of 2024.

Cllr Howard Doe, deputy leader of Medway Council and portfolio holder for community services, said: "I am pleased that construction will soon get underway for a modern, family-friendly leisure centre.

"The new development in Rainham will provide residents with greater opportunities to enjoy leisure facilities on their doorstep. Customers will be able to visit the gym, join-in an exercise class, take a dip in the pool and even relax in a café overlooking the pool areas.

"Splashes opened in 1990 and was not only a facility where many of Medway’s now adult population learnt to swim, but it also likely hosted their birthday parties as children. I am so pleased that we will once again be able to provide a family-friendly leisure facility for Medway residents to visit and enjoy."

Adam Worrall, director at Willmott Dixon, added: "We are delighted to be working in partnership with Medway Council to deliver a cutting-edge leisure centre for its residents to enjoy.

"Through our network of local supply chain partners and our embedded social value programme, we look forward to leaving a lasting legacy in the local community, we can’t wait to get started."

Willmott Dixon has also built three of the buildings at the University of Kent’s Canterbury campus – the business school, school of economics and medical school.

It has also just completed two projects for North Kent College – a performing arts building and a motor vehicle workshop.

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