David McHendry explains how KKP has helped shape a vision for a new kind of community facility and a new approach to sustainability.
Chiltern Pools had presented the then Chiltern District Council with a problem familiar to many local authorities across the UK. Built in 1965, the centre was showing its age, not only aesthetically but also structurally. Key parts of the building required urgent repair or replacement and it had become uneconomic to maintain and run over the long term.
Having previously delivered the Authority’s sports facilities strategy, KKP was appointed to assess the options in respect of a new community leisure centre hub project in Amersham to replace Chiltern Pools plus other older community buildings on the wider site. We delivered a detailed feasibility evaluation, outline costs and plans for a high-quality venue that would enhance usage and programme breadth, substantially improve income generation and reduce ongoing maintenance costs.
The new building will offer a wide range of sport, leisure and community facilities, including:
- 8-lane 25m competition pool
- teaching/diving pool
- children’s splash pad
- fitness suite/dance studios/spin studio
- sports hall
- squash courts
- climbing wall and bouldering
- spa zone and treatment rooms
- clip ‘n’ climb kids zone
- soft play and party rooms
- community hall and meeting rooms
- children’s pre-school provision.
On behalf of the Council, KKP then launched a full public consultation process. This included developing consultation materials, organising and attending numerous public and stakeholder meetings, utilising social media and conducting an online survey, all underpinned by extensive local publicity. This secured an excellent response rate of nearly 2,500 responses.
This demonstrated to local residents and users that it was possible to sensitively fit the range of co-located facilities included on the preferred site while ensuring that the integrity of adjacent open space and the needs of the many interested stakeholders were met. The result was strong support from elected members and the community for the proposed specification.
The Chiltern Lifestyle Centre project demonstrates the benefits of co-location and the synergy achieved by a complementary range of community-focused activities brought together under one roof. One key operational challenge was to ensure that key user groups would be able to benefit from a centralised catering offer and extensive ancillary facilities without losing their identity. This has been achieved within the new design.
The new facility will operate as a community hub accommodating a wide range of activities and users, from sports clubs, U3A programmes and community groups to diving and competition swimming, fitness and a spa offering. The balance of commercially focused and community activity will ensure that it operates at a healthy surplus.
KKP supported the Council to develop the scheme in more detail and test the various adjacencies and co-location advantages of/for various groups and activities. We also led on the consultation and negotiation with Fields in Trust and the Town Council in respect of the need to reconfigure the town’s protected open space to enable the development. The Lifestyle Centre, along with the improvements to the centres at Chesham and Chalfont St Peter, will significantly reduce CO2 emissions.
Working on this options appraisal/feasibility scheme was an exciting and testing project for the KKP team. It enabled us to demonstrate the breadth of our expertise in concept development and testing, financial modelling and in the delivery of complex design requirements, extensive public consultation and innovative business solutions. Now being taken forward by the new Buckinghamshire Council, we can’t wait to see it welcome its first visitors towards the end of 2021.
David McHendry is managing director at KKP.
Contact David at email@example.com