Council unhappy with leisure centre proposal

Council unhappy with leisure centre proposal

12 December 2012

ARCHITECTS designing the new multi-million pound Down Leisure Centre have been told to go back to the drawing board.

Down Council officials are unhappy with the exterior design of the building and want it improved, suggesting what’s currently proposed is “more like a factory than a leisure centre.”

There is also concern the architects have come up with a design which would cost more to deliver than the £12.1m budget which has been set aside for the project.

Council chief executive, Mr. John Dumigan, has confirmed architects have been told to substantially reduce the cost of their proposal to ensure the new Down Leisure Centre does not go over budget.

He said the architects initially produced a plan based on what they were asked to put into the new leisure centre, producing elevations showing what the building would look like.

“The whole thing came out more expensive than we had budgeted for,” continued Mr. Dumigan. “The budget is the budget and we have told architects to give us a building that does not exceed £12.1m.

“Architects then went back and did what’s called ‘value engineering’ which results in them going through all elements of the proposed scheme to see if they can use different materials in some areas or build the new leisure centre in a different way to reduce costs.”

Mr. Dumigan said when he viewed the updated proposal he knew exactly where the savings had been made — on the look of the building.

“The new leisure centre is one of the first buildings you will see when you come into Downpatrick along the Ballydugan Road. It’s appearance has to be excellent, it has to look good and say something about Down Council.

“I do not want a building that looks like a factory. Architects have been told to go back and improve the appearance of the building and find some way to make sure the project remains within budget.”

Mr. Dumigan has also confirmed council officials are still in talks with planners about the new leisure centre which will be directly opposite the Planning Service’s Downpatrick headquarters.

The latest meeting with planners is scheduled to take place later today, when council officials will be supplying additional information on roads issues, ground conditions at Lower Market Street and the flood plain at this part of the town.

“The meeting will focus on what more needs to be done to help secure planning permission for the new leisure centre,” explained Mr. Dumigan.

“We are not having any problems with planners and believe the flood plain issue can be addressed as the new centre’s floor level is one metre higher than the building it’s replacing.”

The council chief executive said while he’s disappointed planning permission has not yet been secured, he hopes that will happen in the New Year to allow architects to move to the detailed design stage and issue tender documents to build the complex.

Mr. Dumigan said these processes could take up to a year to complete and that given the work involved in appointing a contractor, building work may not start until the spring or summer of 2014, with construction work expected to take two years to complete.

• At last week’s meeting of Down Council’s Building Control and Estates Committee it was confirmed that the local authority intends to place advertisements seeking bids from architects to design Newcastle’s new £7m leisure centre before the end of the year.