Sep 19, 2019 Last Updated 10:52 AM, Aug 14, 2019

Willmott Dixon has unveiled Fleet’s latest leisure centre

Published in Leisure
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Building a new leisure centre can be a gamble for a local authority, particularly when the council already has one in operation and suggests a costly alternative on a site in the countryside.


Hart District Council had a leisure centre at Hitches Lane in Fleet, but proposed building a new one nearby, adjacent to Edenbrook Country Park.

The plans were not taken lightly and the council spent time visiting other leisure centres to view good and bad examples of the components of a successful leisure centre.

It was noted at one centre, for example, that a narrow corridor between the outdoor pitches and the changing rooms created a bottleneck. This type of information was fed back to the design team led by architect practice, GT3.

To construct the new Hart Leisure Centre, the council picked one of the UK’s largest builders of leisure facilities, Willmott Dixon, using the SCAPE public sector framework.

The plans continued to be tweaked before the first designs were unveiled at the end of 2014, when the cost was put at £23m. Willmott Dixon broke ground at the beginning of September 2015 and from then on progress was relentless.

Keeping close to the community, during the construction period, members of the public were allowed access to the scheme as part of ‘Open Doors Week’. Richard Weaving, Senior Site Manager for Willmott Dixon on the project, said: “Open Doors lets the community see what they are going to get, we had a fantastic response!”

The community focus continued; during construction, 88 work experience placements were created for local 15-17 year-olds, while three quarters of the local labour was sourced from within a 40-mile radius of the site.

Best in class facilities

Hart Leisure Centre, which is operated on behalf of Hart District Council by sports and leisure provider Everyone Active, opened in spring 2017. It hosts three indoor swimming pools: a 25m eight-lane pool, a 25m four-lane intermediate pool with moveable floor and a 20 x 8.5m teaching pool. Consultant, FT Leisure, which is a regular supplier for Willmott Dixon, designed all three pools.

Also included is an eight-court sports hall, an 8m-high climbing wall, a wet changing room village, plant rooms and store rooms, administration offices, a reception, a ‘grab and go’ cafe, a 130-station gym, four exercise studios and sauna and steam rooms.

Externally, there are four 3G pitches, one full-size 4G pitch and two grass pitches with external changing rooms.

Sustainability has been key to the project, which features PV solar thermal panels, natural ventilation to the sports hall, landscape planting to encourage biodiversity, PIR lighting and a combined heating and power (CHP) system to reuse the waste heat from the pool hall.

GT3’s design aimed to create a pavilion-type building and was designed as three interlocking pavilions. The two sweeping curved roofs accommodate the pool hall and sports hall, and the fitness suite and climbing wall sit between the two wings with the curved roof framing this central space.

The distinctive exterior roof is clad with weathered standing seam roof sheets. Inside, the pool hall has a tied arch roof featuring aluminium perforated acoustic deck and suspended African ayous timber, with the latter specified by the client.

Render has been used on the walls but not at low levels as Willmott Dixon changed this element of the design due to concerns that these blank open spaces could attract vandals.

The building sits within a seven-acre site bordering on fields, so landscaping has also been important and Willmott Dixon shifted 20,000m3 using cut-and-fill. Nothing went to landfill with levels to accommodate the excavations.

With concerns over building in a greenfield area, 4800 trees and 50,000 shrubs were planted around the site.

Willmott Dixon handed the project over in April 2017 and during the opening ceremony the chairman of the council said: “The project is one of the biggest investments the council has made and it reflects our commitment to health and wellbeing in the district.”

Olympic reception

The Hart Leisure Centre was opened on 1st April 2017 by double Olympic champion Swimmer Rebecca Adlington and Alex Danson, who won a gold medal as part of Team GB’s winning women’s hockey team at Rio 2016 and grew up locally. More than 5000 customers visited the centre on its opening weekend to get a taste of the state-of-the-art facilities on offer. In addition to users from the old sports facility, the new leisure centre will also pick up new users from a major residential development on its doorstep. Berkeley Homes is building 237 units at Edenbrook and a further 116 homes opposite to the leisure centre.

With a guaranteed clientele and praise from two Olympic gold medallists, Hart Council’s new leisure centre looks a guaranteed winner.

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