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Work moving ahead on new Harpenden leisure and cultural centres

PUBLISHED: 19:00 02 March 2020

Work underway on the new leisure and cultural centres in Harpenden.

Work underway on the new leisure and cultural centres in Harpenden.

Archant

Work on a state-of-the-art leisure and culture facility for Harpenden is moving ahead, and sections should be opening sooner than anticipated.

The £18.8m district council project will create leisure and cultural centres in Rothamsted Park.

The existing swimming pool building is being extended and turned into a leisure centre while the old sports centre is being converted into a cultural hub.

The leisure centre was due to open next January but progress has been faster than expected and it is now likely to open before the end of this year.

It will include a wide range of enhanced facilities such as an improved gym, new café, sports hall, sauna, steam room, learner pool and refurbished main pool.

The cultural centre, replacing the ageing Harpenden Public Halls in Southdown Road, will include a 511-seat theatre, two function rooms, an exhibition space, bars on two floors and a café overlooking the park.

Unexpectedly, the lower roof of the existing sports centre will now need to be replaced instead of being retained after issues with its design and the materials used came to light in a report issued by a Government safety body.

Structural engineers had previously said the existing roof could support a required increase in mechanical plant if it was strengthened. Now they have advised, following the new safety guidance, that this is no longer the case.

This extra work will impact the construction timetable so that the cultural centre will now likely open next May, a few weeks later than originally envisaged.

Sports centre users are being offered alternative facilities while the building is closed, and creche members will be able to use a creche at Batchwood Sports Centre from next Monday.

The exercise studio will close on the evening of March 13 and be relocated to the Southdown Room of Harpenden Public Halls.

The gym will shut on March 19 and reopen the following Monday in the vacated exercise studio and creche.

Cllr Robert Donald, portfolio holder for commercial and development, said: "The good news is that these arrangements will only be in place for a short time and that the new multi-sports leisure centre is now on course to be opened ahead of schedule, later this year instead of early in 2021, despite the construction programme changes."

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