Next week, Dartford Borough Council’s Cabinet Advisory Panel and full Cabinet meet and one of the items on the agenda is ‘Award of Contract for Rebuild of Fairfield Pool and Leisure Centre’.

A report being presented to these Committees recommends the following:-

  • That the work is placed under the Scape Framework together with a building contract with Willmott Dixon, subject to final approval of the detailed items to be included being agreed by the Managing Director in conjunction with the Leader of the Council, and on contractual terms to be advised by the Head of Legal Services.
  • That the commitment to maintain high specifications be noted and the overall budget for the project is set at £11m with a further report to the December Committee on the final costs and implications.
  • That the management arrangement of the Sports Hall at the Acacia Hall site is extended until the works on Fairfield Pool are nearer completion and a preferred procurement route for the management of the facilities at Fairfield Pool is undertaken.

Further details from the report to be considered are as detailed below.

Since a report was presented to the Cabinet in December 2013 setting out the proposals for the refurbishment and extension of Fairfield Pool and Leisure Centre, Willmott Dixon have undertaken extensive surveys and investigations into the building structure.  It has been confirmed that the underlying structure of the building is basically sound but displays some significant defects which require repair as part of the works.

The major conclusion from the detailed surveys was that the amount and type of asbestos found in the building made it extremely difficult to remove without considerable expense for temporary works such as scaffolding and working environment encapsulation, along with an extended timescale to carry out these works in a controlled way.

This has had a large impact on the initial costs of the first phase of the project compared to initial estimates, and on the delivery timescale. Around an additional £650,000 has had to be allocated to the first phase works on the asbestos removal alone, excluding contractor costs to run the site.

Due to the programming issues surrounding removal of the asbestos to the main pool and the rest of the building, the initially programmed date for commencement in April 2014 was deferred until July 2014.

The extensive demolition works, removal of the asbestos and preparations for the main rebuilding phase are due for completion around the end of the calendar year.

The demolition/removal works, surveys, both the initial and current design development have been let through a series of orders under the Scape Framework at a cost of £2,188,986.01 and it is estimated that £1.9m of the cost of the build is associated with dealing with existing site conditions.

This work has got the project to a fully designed, priced and agreed level of specification (subject to minor alteration) ready for the main contract appointment. The existing building will be in a physical state of readiness for the rebuilding phase with all the redundant plant removed, cleared of asbestos and all internal and external walls that are not required being demolished ready to commence the actual refurbishment.

The core design of the building has not substantially changed but surveys have exposed a range of issues which must be addressed.  These issues would require attention whether or not the building was to be subject to a full refurbishment and updating but it is naturally sensible to complete them during the refurbishment programme, although this has an impact on the project’s final cost.  A number of design improvements and detail changes have also occurred in the interim period and, in addition, some prices received as part of the ‘open book’ tendering for works packages have also resulted in returns above initial budget. There is rising pressure on costs in the building construction market and this is currently estimated to be running at around 3.2-4.5% p.a.

Whilst all these factors have increased costs it is considered that it is unwise to reduce the specification significantly as this would impact on a well-appointed and long-lasting building which should be attractive to a new leisure management operator, giving the potential for increased revenue income.

The project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create new facilities and enhance the existing outdated provision to ensure Fairfield Pool is able to meet the expectations of local residents and continue to be a source of pride for the borough.

It must also be considered that the provision of an entirely new facility as an alternative to refurbishment would be likely to be significantly more costly than the enhancements proposed.  A recent scoping project suggested that the cost of providing a new pool with a specification significantly lower than an enhanced Fairfield Pool was likely to be more than double the costs of the proposed works.

Fairfield Pool is a popular and well-used facility and it is considered that of the refurbishment should be to a high specification.  For instance, high quality tiles are specified for the pool hall, and following a review the whole of the pool tank is to be re-tiled for aesthetic and safety reasons. Similarly, the existing structural steel in the pool hall could have been left exposed to reduce costs, but a stretched ceiling reduces longer term maintenance and costs, gives some sound improvements and will give a much better overall ambience to the hall.

Other technical improvements are also included to reduce low circulation spots in the unusually shaped pool tank and improve water quality.

The price now submitted by Willmott Dixon for the complete works is £10.4m, but it is prudent to allow for the Council’s ongoing consultancy support and some contingency beyond this to ensure sufficient budget is identified.

As part of the Scape Framework, there is a requirement for contractors on the Framework to engage locally with the community.  This includes apprenticeships, school visits, construction site visits and seeking NEET, long term unemployed engagement, along with local supply chains. Willmott Dixon have estimated that this brings around £220,000 of investment back into the community.

Further commitments of £2.5m will be made by the ordering of steel and other long delivery items required under the main contract. These need to be in place as soon as possible to enable a continuation of the works in January 2015. This would allow completion by late autumn 2015.

The full contract will not be entered into at this stage therefore £4.7m will be at risk if the project does not proceed.

Regarding external funding, relatively recently in the life of the project, the Council was awarded DECC “Warmer Streets” funding to improve energy efficiency on targeted commercial properties in the borough.

Fairfield Pool was part of the original bid submission to government, and following work by the E3 team (who are commissioned to run the scheme by the council), Willmott Dixon and the Council’s consultants, Ingleton Wood, a grant has been offered to partially offset the increased costs of improving the insulation, lighting and boiler plant beyond simple renewal to commercial standards, with the remaining cost having to be borne by the capital budget.

Due to the level of expenditure on the project, it is now recommended that only the boiler plant is fully upgraded as part of the scheme.  This will potentially be grant aided up to £35,000 of the £69,350 replacement cost.

Regarding alternative procurement routes, advice was sought through the Council’s consultants on potential alternative routes to complete the rebuilding should the costs become untenable.  The advice received was that it would be potentially possible to stop the relationship with Wilmott Dixon following detailed design, and then seek alternative tenders. However, it was recognised that this could increase risk in several ways:

  • The project would have to be tendered, which would potentially delay the project for at least 6-9 months. This would leave the current structure needing continued site hoarding and possibly manned security, resulting in ongoing costs with no immediate benefit and no current revenue budget.
  • The Council does have the rights to the design from Willmott Dixon; whilst this should not be unreasonably withheld there is no guarantee in obtaining exhaustive information developed to date.
  • Actual savings in carrying out this process are difficult to quantify; the construction industry is accelerating and tender prices are therefore rising. It is possible that the scheme would hit the market at the worst possible point, bringing no significant savings.

Regarding Leisure Management Contracts, as part of the redevelopment of the Fairfield Pool site is the need to prepare a new contract to run the facility through a leisure management company.  Consultants have been appointed to assist in the process and it is anticipated to have a new leisure management contractor in place well before the building is completed.

Indirectly related to this project is the future of the sports hall on the Acacia Hall site. This is currently run under a management contract (with a tenancy at will) which was extended until 31 March 2014.

It is sensible to continue operating the Acacia hall facilities under the current regime until the Fairfield Pool is available, to ensure the council can continue to provide a sport venue in the short/medium term.

It is therefore recommended that the management contract is extended until at near the completion of Fairfield Pool and a further report to consider options is brought before members at that time.

About the author

Andy Clark is retired after a long career at Lloyds Register and subsequently the Civil Service. He has lived in Dartford for his entire life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>