Essex council to build £33m leisure centre despite budget hike

A new leisure centre is set to be built in an Essex town despite its total project cost increasing by more than £8m.

Epping Forest District Council’s cabinet has voted to award the design-and-build contract for the job to Pellikaan Construction Ltd, at an estimated cost of £26.3m. The tender submission envisaged a start on site in August 2023 and completion in April 2025.

The centre will include a main swimming pool, as well as a learner pool, sports hall, health and fitness gym, and studios.

Pellikaan has built a number of other sports and leisure centres across the UK. It is part of a Dutch-based group that designs, builds, operates and maintains venues.

Its contract for the Epping centre will be with Places Leisure, which has an agreement with the council to build and operate the new leisure centre.

The decision to go ahead with the project means Epping Forest will need to stump up an extra £8.1m of capital funding after the council’s estimated total project cost increased from £25m in January 2021 to £33.1m in today’s market. The £25m budget was based on an initial cost plan from November 2020, with build costs estimated at around £22.5m.

A council report said the higher forecast was due to “unprecedented levels of construction cost and inflation increases” as well as new design elements such as ground source heat pumps.

The new centre will replace the current “ageing” Epping Sports Centre and provide residents with new leisure facilities to increase health and wellbeing provision, the report adds.

The new venue is intended to be “extremely energy efficient” and form a “major step” in helping the district become carbon neutral by 2030.

In contrast, Kingston Council in West London has not set a timeframe for a planned new leisure centre after the cost doubled to nearly £80m. But the council said it remained “committed” to the project.

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