Councillor E Buckmaster submitted a report seeking approval for additional funding for the completion of the leisure centre projects. He explained the reasons for the request were that inflation had risen more than the forecast; additional works had been identified following more detailed surveys and there was an opportunity to enhance sustainable energy features. Without additional funding some elements would need to be omitted. The project would in time generate money, and this was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity to provide first-class leisure facilities for the community to a high standard.
Councillor Buckmaster moved, and Councillor G Williamson seconded a motion that the recommendations as detailed in the report submitted be approved. Councillor Williamson said as a fellow member of the Leisure Project Board and as the Executive Member for Financial Sustainability he was keen to support the additional investment.
Councillor T Beckett commended the project, and said that it was right to agree the additional spend. However, if at the outset a concept design had been encouraged, these additional costs could have been minimised. He acknowledged that future projects would be taking that aspect into account. He said it should also be noted the Bishop’s Stortford Climate Group felt there had been a missed opportunity at the Grange Paddocks site to supply the District with energy.
Councillor K Crofton said this was a fantastic scheme. He asked how scrutiny of the finances would ensure that no further unforeseen increases in budget would be required. Would such scrutiny be carried out by the Financial Sustainability Committee?
Councillor M Brady asked whether the cycle hub could be incorporated into the project and questioned from which budget the proposed pavilion would be funded.
Councillor J Jones said the Task and Finish Group had taken a stringent approach to the costings, so it was of concern to see an increase in funding being sought. He questioned whether the temporary gym facilities were needed; whether this was the final figure and whether the figure covered three rather than two swimming pools.
Councillor S Bell said she thought it was important to provide temporary gym facilities for Hartham as without such provision there was a risk that for a three month closure, some customers would not return.
Councillor Buckmaster responded to Members’ queries. He agreed with Councillor Bell that mitigation of potential loss of customers was important via provision of temporary facilities as it cost more to win new customers than to retain existing ones. Responding to Councillor Beckett, he agreed, the Task and Finish Group had looked at options, but there were lessons that could be learned from any projects. Responding to Councillor Jones, he considered there would be no further unforeseen costs, but in any event there was still a 5% margin available if necessary. The largest element of the funding related to the construction sector being more vibrant than expected. In terms of the cycle hub, he felt the needs of Mudlarks were different, and their needs would not be met by offering the cycle hub as their café. The proposed leisure centre café was an important part of the offer, and it would be accessible to park and leisure centre customers, to ensure all had a first-class provision. He confirmed the amount was for the entire project, so did include all three pools (although no additional funding was being requested for the Leventhorpe Pool refurbishment).
Councillor I Devonshire said 5% contingency was not a huge amount of leeway, given the fact that unforeseen circumstances tended only to become apparent once groundworks started.
Councillor Buckmaster replied this was the final funding request, he acknowledged the point made, but some elements could be less than expected and the project needed to be taken forward with a view to achieving best value with the professional advice of the consultants.
Councillor Pope, as Chairman of the Performance, Audit and Governance Oversight Committee, said this project could be monitored by that Committee. Councillors Williamson and Buckmaster agreed with that approach.
Councillor Beckett commented that whilst a large part of the costs would relate to the roof for Hartham, in his view, there was likely to be further financial leeway on the environmental CHP system at Grange Paddocks.
After being put to the meeting, and a vote taken, the motion was declared CARRIED.
RESOLVED – that (A) additional funding of £1.558m is agreed for the completion of the Hartham Leisure Centre refurbishment, to be funded from a combination of future s.106 receipts, new homes bonus, borrowing and/or any other opportunities identified;
(B) additional funding of £1.024m is agreed for the completion of the new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, to be funded from a combination of future s.106 receipts, new homes bonus, borrowing and/or any other opportunities identified;
(C) authority be delegated to the Head of Strategic Finance and Property and the Head of Planning and Building Control to identify and agree the specific funding referred to in recommendations (A) and (B); and
(D) additional funding of up to £1m is agreed to provide extra sustainable energy features at Hartham and Grange Paddocks leisure centres, to be funded from a combination of future s.106 receipts, new homes bonus, borrowing and/or any other opportunities identified, with the decision on the specific features delegated to the Head of Strategic Finance and Property.