King Alfred Development - frequently asked questions

Why is redevelopment of the King Alfred Leisure Centre such a priority?

The current King Alfred building, dating from the 1930s fails to meet modern standards or expectations and is expensive to maintain.  A new sports centre of the type demanded by the city would cost about £40m to build.  Councils have nothing like these sums to invest in new buildings.  So we have been seeking a private partner to redevelop the entire site.  An enabling development alongside, predominantly new homes, will help to meet the cost of the new sports centre.

What’s been agreed so far?

After a tendering process known as a ‘competitive dialogue’, the council on 21 January 2016 chose Crest Nicholson in partnership with the Starr Trust as its preferred bidder.  Bouygues Developments were the other contenders. Current designs and images are indicative of the plans, but not finalised.  Once contractual arrangements are concluded, Crest Nicholson’s team will prepare detailed designs in advance of a planning application being made, in conjunction with public consultation.

How did the council decide between the two bidders? 

Each of the shortlisted schemes was assessed against set evaluation criteria.  These covered the project’s primary objective of delivering a new public sports and leisure facility, the enabling development; financial considerations and deliverability.  The Crest bid came out with the highest total score.

Why weren’t the two proposals shared with the public?

The council used the ‘competitive dialogue’ procurement process; the only other option was to use a framework which would have been too restrictive for a project of this nature and complexity. Competitive dialogue offers advantages, particularly in driving better value for money for the council by maintaining competitive tension during the negotiations.  Throughout the process the bidding companies submitted detailed and commercially sensitive information with a cross-party councillor Project Board, specialist council officers and external experts.  Making details of the bids public would be unlawful under Public Procurement Regulations.  It would also undermine competition, as bidders would gain advantage from seeing the competing proposals.  

Why has the timetable slipped?

The indicative timetable published in early 2016 was known to be ambitious. It signalled a genuine desire by all partners to conclude contractual arrangements at the earliest opportunity with a view to seeing the development commence in 2017/2018. However, the project is a complex major development that involves many strands of detailed work. Since the appointment of the Preferred Developer much of the focus has been to advance the legal, contractual and financial arrangements. Once these are concluded the Developer will advance the detailed designs that will help inform the public consultation process leading to submission of a planning application.

What will the sports centre include?

Facilities will be a vast improvement on the current building and exceed the council’s minimum specification of required features agreed by councillors on the policy and resources committee in 2013.  The new centre will have three swimming pools, providing a balance of provision for fitness swimmers, families and learners.  There will be a 25m eight-lane competition pool, a smaller teaching pool, plus a leisure pool.  Movable floors for changing depths in the competition and teaching pools are features included. The sports hall will have space for eight badminton courts compared to five in the current centre.  There will be a 120-station gym, plus 15 spinning bikes.   Also included are a crèche, gymnastics centre, three-rink indoor bowls, dedicated martial arts dojo, quiet studio, sauna and a café.

A full list of proposed facilities is here:

  • 25m x 8 lane competition pool with moveable floor with 352 spectator seats and 100 competitor seats
  • 20m x 10m teaching pool with moveable floor
  • 400 sq m under 8’s leisure pool
  • 8 badminton court size sports hall
  • 22m x 12m multi-purpose room
  • 120 piece gym
  • 15 bike spinning room
  • 3 rink indoor bowls
  • 200 space car park for sport and leisure uses
  • Gymnastics Centre
  • Workout studio for classes up to 35
  • Quiet activity studio for classes up to 12
  • 8 person sauna suite
  • Health and fitness changing
  • Café
  • Crèche for 15 under 5’s
  • Soft play room for 72 children
  • Dedicated martial arts dojo

Will the existing sports centre remain open until completion of the new sport and leisure centre?

The council’s desire was to minimise disruption to users of the existing centre but negotiations with both bidders confirmed the significant additional financial challenges this brings. The preferred developer assessed the feasibility of keeping the existing centre open while building the new facility. Unfortunately this was not financially viable without greatly reducing the sports centre facilities.

How long will there no sports centre on the King Alfred site?

Delivering a new sports centre is the priority and it will be among the first elements to be completed. However, it is likely that it will take in the region of 2.5 to 3 years to build a sports facility of the large scale proposed.

When will the new sports centre open?

This will depend firstly on when the partners conclude the contractual arrangements, and then on the length of time it takes to complete further preparatory work.  This includes detailed design, consultation and securing planning consent, which is required before building can begin. An indicative timescale would be late  2022.

What facilities will current users of the King Alfred be able to access while the new centre is being built?

While the other council sports facilities across the city will be available (which are also operated by Freedom Leisure on behalf of the council), capacity is limited. A new King Alfred is badly needed by the city and it is inevitable that not all users will be able to use other facilities when the King Alfred closes.

Is a 50m swimming pool/diving included in the plans?

While the council’s list of enhanced requirements included a 50m pool/diving pool, neither Bidder offered these as part of their Final Tender proposals. The preferred developer assessed the feasibility of a 50m pool/diving pool and concluded it is not financially viable in this project. An excellent range of swimming provision is proposed including an exciting and innovative leisure pool providing a fun introduction to water, a large teaching pool with moveable floor for lessons, and a 25m, eight- lane competition pool with moveable floor and seating, enabling a good standard of galas.

What indoor bowls facility will be provided in the new centre?

A three-rink indoor bowls facility is proposed, enabling continued public access to indoor bowls. The preferred developer assessed the feasibility of a six-rink facility and concluded it is not financially viable in this project. The English Indoor Bowling Association (EIBA.) has welcomed continuation of public indoor bowls at the centre. A three-rink facility will enable casual games, internal club competitions and friendly matches to be played. In addition, the council and EIBA will work with the local club and county associations to seek continuation of county league matches.

Will the new sports centre have dedicated parking?

Yes – the proposal includes 200 spaces dedicated to sports centre users.

Is the council contributing to the capital cost?

Yes – the council is proposing to contribute £8 million of capital funding for the project, which will be paid for by the projected cost savings to operate the new centre compared with the existing.

Who will own the sports centre?

The sports centre will remain in the ownership of the city council.

Who will manage the new sports centre?

The council will seek an external operator to manage the centre on behalf of the council nearer to the time that the facility is built.

Who will set the prices for the new sports centre?

The council sets the prices annually for all its sports facilities and this will include a new King Alfred.

What will the development of flats consist of and how tall is it?

There would be around 560 flats in four main blocks, the highest of which would be 18 storeys.  Twenty per cent of the flats would be affordable homes – for either rent or shared ownership.  They would be run by a registered provider or ‘social landlord’. The private units will comprise properties for sale and also for the private rented sector.

Who are Crest Nicholson? 

They are a major UK developer, mainly focused on residential schemes.  Among current and recent projects are their award-winning One Brighton development in Brighton’s New England Quarter alongside the station, a mixed use-regeneration of Bristol Harbourside, plus a development of 1620 homes, a library and shops at Centenary Square in Southampton.

Who are the Starr Trust?

The Starr Trust was formed seven years ago.  Its aim is to support young people aged 10 –18 to fulfil their potential through sports, arts and education The Trust provides financial grants up to £5000 for young people in need living in the BN post code area of the UK (Edward Starr Awards), training and development of skills, connections and mentoring.

The Starr Trust does this through local fundraising, events, creating local networks of mentors and other interested professionals, providing opportunities for training and skills sharing and connecting communities locally and around the world. It aims to encourage independent thinking, entrepreneurship and a social conscience in young people through all its activities.

The Trust believe in a world in which young people are supported to achieve their fullest potential; where they flourish as individuals while making a positive contribution to their community, and in turn are recognised for their achievements. (Source: The Starr Trust, www.starrtrust.com )

Who are the architects? 

Designing the sports centre are LA Architects, a locally based firm with a strong track record designing public sports and leisure facilities.  Recent local authority projects include the Glass Mill Loampit Vale Leisure Centre in Lewisham, the Clapham One Leisure Centre and Kensington Leisure Centre.

The architects responsible for master planning and the wider development are Haworth Tompkins.  Haworth Tompkins are a London-based practice who won the UK’s top architecture award, the Stirling Prize, in 2014 for Liverpool’s Everyman theatre.  They have designed a number of successful residential developments, including schemes within the London Olympic Park.

Who will build the sports and leisure centre?

Crest Nicholson are proposing to engage Willmott Dixon to deliver the sports and leisure facility. In the last 10 years, Willmott Dixon have built over 100 pools and 70 leisure facilities for private, public and educational sector clients and are widely regarded as one of the market leaders in this sector.

What plans are there for public consultation?

All planning applications must, by law, include public consultation and the planning committee must consider representations on planning matters.  These include things like the height and appearance of buildings, numbers of flats or impacts on local amenity.

What’s the latest timetable for the project?

It is difficult with large complex projects to set precise timetables well in advance, so the following remains  indicative at this stage. Subject to concluding contractual arrangements in the first half of 2018, planning consultation could  commence by mid-2018 with a view to a planning application later that year. Details of the longer-term programme will be published once the current activities are concluded. We appreciate the uncertainty this causes and understand how difficult this can make planning for the future. The Council and the development team remain committed to delivering the project and will provide updates as soon as things become clearer.