£3 million project to refurbish Letchworth leisure centre takes on extra cost after seven-month delay

Councillor Jane Gray, who is responsible for leisure at North Herts District Council.

Councillor Jane Gray, who is responsible for leisure at North Herts District Council. - Credit: Archant

The £3 million project to refurbish North Herts Leisure Centre has taken on renewed urgency after it was revealed last night that a lengthy delay is set to pile an extra £317,327 onto the cost of the scheme.

A planning application for the Letchworth leisure centre extension – which includes a new learner and training pool to meet the demand for swimming lessons in the area – was accepted in September.

North Herts District Council cabinet members were told at a meeting at their Gernon Road headquarters that the delay in completing the teaching pool could also see a reduction in income of £137,985 in 2016/17.

Delays have been caused due to difficulties in both securing a contractor which offered the best value for money, as well as tying down a firm which could complete the project within the timescale.

The scheme – which is expected to increase the lifespan of the leisure centre by 25 years – includes converting the first-floor cafeteria into a dance studio, with a new cafeteria seating 80 people on the ground floor to attract more customers.

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Councillor Jane Gray, who is responsible for leisure at the district council, said: “Over the past 12 to 18 months there has been a considerable increase in the volume of work in the UK construction market.

“This has resulted in tender prices rising substantially.

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“While the increase in costs is unfortunate, we still feel that the project represents value for money for council tax payers.

“Over the next 25 years additional income to the district council in excess of £5.5 million may be achieved.

“As well as the financial benefits, the teaching pool and café will provide greatly improved quality services to North Hertfordshire residents.

“Although it is not as good a business case as we had previously, it is still a commercially attractive prospect which will serve the community.”

Councillor David Levett, who is ward councillor for Letchworth South East where the centre resides, said: “We need to get on with the project.

“The leisure centre is showing its age and there is nowhere for young people to have swimming lessons in North Hertfordshire.”

Councillor Terry Hone said: “This project is to benefit the people of North Hertfordshire and that is what it is all about.

“We will just have to see the benefits over a longer period of time.

“It is unfortunate that we are 71/2 months down the line, but we will just have to get on with it and get some return.”

The existing centre was opened by the Queen in the summer of 1982.

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