Agenda item

Call in - Cabinet Item 12. Cascades Leisure Centre Part A Report

Item ‘Called in’ from the Cabinet meeting of 31 January 2022


The Chair of the Overview Scrutiny Committee has called in the following item for the meeting on Thursday 10 February 2022:


Item 12. Cascades Leisure Centre Part A Report



·       To explore how the Council will engage with the community. 

·       To explore how the proposal will help address health


·       To ensure that the taxpayer will achieve value for money.

·       To give further consideration to the funding proposals.


Cabinet Member:      The relevant Cabinet Member for this matter is invited to attend.


Officer:                       The relevant officers for this matter are invited to attend.



Please find the Cabinet reports for this item attached to this agenda.


The Director (Communities) informed Members thatthe Council had commissioned Knight, Kavanagh, & Page (KKP) to undertake a feasibility study of the Council owned leisure centres, currently located at Cascades Leisure Centre and Cygnet Leisure Centre. The key focus of the study was to refresh the Council’s Indoor Leisure Strategy and to redefine its needs and options for investment in its facility portfolio.


The study needed to take account of a changed landscape from the original strategy which had been completed in 2016. These changes included the developments of the Lower Thames Crossing, potential developments undertaken in Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and the proposed Garden City, as well as the potential impact of Covid-19 on the leisure industry.


The study was completed over two phases: -


·       Phase One – a refresh of the 2016 Indoor Strategy and based on the refreshed strategy findings; and

·       Phase Two - a feasibility study to investigate whether/how to replace one or both facilities, in a process which incorporated evaluation of capital and revenue costs, as well as a management options appraisal to assist the Council in deciding on the optimal way forward.



The feasibility study recommended replacing the existing Cascades Leisure Centre at its existing site to address the Borough’s current facility needs assuming that the proposals at Ebbsfleet Garden City for a landmark leisure facility was also delivered as a potential replacement for Cygnet Leisure Centre. As the proposals for a hub leisure facility at Ebbsfleet Garden City were unknown at this stage, the Council had agreed to concentrate on the redevelopment options of Cascades Leisure Centre.


In terms of where the new facility should be located, alternative sites for development in the Borough were extremely limited, with the existing urban area being particularly constrained and focus on available sites being placed on delivering the Borough’s housing requirements. Cascades Leisure Centre’s existing car park had emerged as the highest ranked site from the appraisal as it benefits from being owned by the Council and had the potential to create good visibility and site frontage of the new leisure centre.


An initial capital cost estimate of circa £33.8m had been identified. This was inclusive of an allowance of £3.5 million for external works to the site which would include external landscaping, car parking including coach drop off area and creation of an Active Environmental area. The sum did include a 10% contingency amount but did not take into account general inflationary pressures nationally, particularly within the construction industry.


KKP had produced an indicative revenue business plan for the new leisure centre which was based on a range of key assumptions (both income and expenditure). The plan drew upon KKP’s understanding of the local area through past and current work and a range of live operational examples of where and how other modern leisure centres effectively generate income from their key activity areas. The indicative also assumed that performance of the centre would have returned to pre-COVID levels when it becomes operational.


The revenue business plan had been prepared on the basis of two potential operating models for consideration based on information provided by KKP (a) a trust management option or (b) management by an external (commercial) operator.


The Council’s Finance Team had analysed and reviewed the indicative Revenue Business Plan and appraised the two operating models for consideration based on information provided by KKP. The indicative revenue projections indicate that both operating options would generate a surplus position during the first five years of operation.


In order to deliver on the next stage, the Council will be required to undertake procurement of a range of services in respect of consultancy (design, planning, leisure) and construction.


As set out in the report, the approach will be in a two- stage manner, with the procurement of consultancy services being separate from that of selecting a construction partner.


Options regarding leisure centre development in Gravesham going forward, will also need to take account of the Lower Thames Crossing (LTC) programme, which may have a degree of overlap with the leisure centre construction.




The Leader of the Executive - Cllr John Burden, the Director (Communities) and the Director (Corporate Services) fielded questions from the Committee and highlighted the following:


·       The Leader of the Executive explained that the Council had responded to consultations and local need on this matter. There will be further public consultation on the scheme that is being proposed through the planning process.

·       The Director (Communities) explained that Gravesham is above the regional average for obesity and inactivity levels high. Life expectancy in some areas of the Borough is 10 years below the rural areas. This has all been taken into account for the new Leisure Centre. The Council is looking at medical referral rooms inside the Leisure Centre as well as outdoor space for trails, running, walking, football and outdoor fitness equipment. The swimming pool proposal will also address the need for 1500 swimming participants per week whilst also catering for family fun.

·       The Leader of the Executive advised Members that the existing outside facilities at the Cascades site will remain, but the Council will look into funding to improve the facilities across the borough (e.g. 3G/4G sports pitches)

·       The Director (Communities) confirmed that it was the Council’s aim to make the new Leisure Centre a very sustainable building. Visits to existing examples of modern Leisure Centres are also planned.

·       The Director (Communities) explained that the Council will carefully consider the management options for the new Leisure Centre and will ensure the Council maintains a role in this area.

·       The Director (Communities) advise that the feasibility study is very in-depth in relation to health statics and tackling health inequalities.

·       Director (Corporate Services) highlighted that it was the Council’s intention to make sure capital contributions be set aside and that plans are made for future liabilities.

Preliminary costs associated with consultancy and external groundwork amounting

to circa £300k will be funded from the Council’s existing 2021-22 unapplied grants,

as opposed to external borrowing. The Council requires the support of consultants because it does not have the expertise in this subject area within the Council.

·       The Leader of the Executive explained that he would like to see the new Leisure Centre completed by 2024.



The Chair thanked the Leader of the Executive and officers present for attending the Overview Scrutiny Committee and expressed his hope that Members comments would be taken on-board by the Cabinet.



Resolved that the Committee noted the Cascades Leisure Centre Part A Report.


Note: Cllr Peter Scollard left the room when this item was being considered


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