Highlight gets the nod from Hartlepool
Contractor Wates is gearing up to start construction after councillors agreed to a revised funding strategy for the leisure centre, despite estimated costs climbing by £8m.
The original £25.65m budget for Highlight was developed in the council’s 2019/20 financial period, which allowed the project to progress through detailed design and obtain planning permission.
Three years on, the projected cost of the facility is now estimated at more than £34m, meaning resources have been juggled.
The revised funding strategy comprises a mix of additional grant from Sport England, money released following a review of the Council’s capital programme, capital contingency funds held by the authority and borrowing.
A full meeting of Hartlepool Council has now rubber-stamped this funding package, which had previously been recommended for approval by the authority’s finance and policy committee.
In common with many other projects – including a leisure centre project Willmott Dixon has just stepped away from in Newcastle – the cost of the project has increased.
Cllr Mike Young, leader of Hartlepool Council, said: “I am delighted that councillors have supported the revised funding strategy which means that the residents of Hartlepool will now get the new leisure centre they deserve.
“It will be a fantastic development that will be an attraction in its own right and also complement other local visitor destinations, including the National Museum of the Royal Navy Hartlepool, the Museum of Hartlepool and Hartlepool Marina.
“Although the additional investment is significant, Highlight will have major long-term benefits for Hartlepool and demonstrates the Council’s commitment to regenerating the town, raising aspirations and supporting improved health outcomes for local people.”
Wates said that work will begin by November at the site in The Waterfront area.
Cllr Young added: “It is important to note that the majority of funding for this scheme has been secured externally at no cost to Hartlepool residents, so the facility still represents good value for money for Hartlepool.”
Highlight, designed by GT3 Architects and expected to open its doors in 2025, will replace the town’s ageing Mill House Leisure Centre which opened in 1972 and will remain open until Highlight is completed.