FaulknerBrowns is the architect. Credit: NCC

Newcastle seeks new leisure centre contractor

With pre-construction works complete, the city council and Willmott Dixon have parted ways on the Levelling Up Fund-backed Outer West project due to costs climbing for the main build phase.

In October 2021 the council was awarded £19.8m by the government in Levelling Up funding to build the £26m centre after the old West Denton swimming pool remained closed following the pandemic lockdown.

Designed by FaulknerBrowns, the facility is to include an eight-lane 25m pool, fitness studio, gym and café, as well as a new library.

Willmott Dixon was appointed in February 2022 for a two-stage process. The pre-construction and enabling works phase has been completed, but with build costs skyrocketing across the industry over the last 18 months, the contractor has concluded that it cannot deliver the project as set out for the price agreed.

Newcastle must thus find another way. The council said it is seeking a new partner, a process that will delay the opening of the centre by six months. NCC said it remains committed to the project.

The scheme, procured through the Pagabo major works framework was estimated at £26m in total, but with inflation the council said that may rise by a further £6m.

The council said it will “seek to reduce those costs with a new construction partner while working to maintain the quality of the facility”.

The council’s cabinet member for a resilient city, Cllr Paula Maines, said: “Like many infrastructure projects, our leisure centre and swimming pool in the Outer West has been impacted by external factors including inflation.

“Over the last few months, Willmott Dixon have worked with us undertaking pre-construction services and enabling works. This period has now concluded, and change is necessary to reduce costs and bring them more in line with our budget.

“This delay inevitably means the centre will not be open by December 2024 as intended. We appreciate that residents will share our disappointment, however we want to reassure them the council remains absolutely committed to this project. We will build a new state-of-the-art leisure centre and swimming pool in the Outer West”

By way of an update, the councillor said that the former West Denton pool and library have been stripped out internally, and are ready for demolition.

A demolition partner is to be appointed “without delay” so that the local authority’s incoming construction partner can take over a site that is ready for work to begin.

Cllr Maines concluded: “The council remains committed to building a new flagship leisure facility for the city of the highest quality.”

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