External works completed on Darwen Leisure Centre

26 March 2010

External works is complete on the £12.7m Leisure Centre in Darwen, Lancashire.

The Centre features state-of-the-art sport and leisure facilities including an impressive 25 metre swimming pool; a small pool; a main gym with eighty pieces of equipment; a multi-purpose fitness studio; a multi-use sports hall, and a training suite.

Capita Symonds provided architecture, quantity surveying, structural engineering, mechanical and electrical engineering, and project management services on the project which comprised the demolition of the existing building and full design and construction of the new Centre.

The main swimming pool, which has eight-lanes and a moveable floor (funded by Sport England), can be used for competitions and has electronic timing equipment, a video and results scoreboard and seating for up to 250 spectators. Materials fitted in the two swimming pool areas have been chosen to aid acoustics so that loud noises are dulled but low frequencies are carried, meaning that swimming teachers do not have to shout.

The new Darwen Leisure Centre is situated in a prominent and elevated position in the town centre, forming a ‘campus’ with a new health centre. The building has also been designed to optimise comfort for its users through a combination of mechanical servicing, natural lighting and solar control.  Wherever practical, generous glazing is provided to activity spaces giving a ‘shop window’ for the centre. These windows are angled and provided with part-obscured glazing to give oblique views of the activity, suggesting a sense of permeability and accessibility whilst maintaining privacy for individual users.

Darwen’s urban environment is reflected in the external envelope with brick, ceramic cladding and copper being the main facing materials. The new building is generally two storeys in height with parapet roofs to further enhance its scale. A stone portico from the previous leisure centre, held in considerable affection by the local community, has also been retained and re-used as part of the external landscaping.

The project’s key challenges included the demolition of the existing structure within a Conservation Area and a change in political power during the design stage which led to a redesign incorporating the various aspirations of new elected members, including a sports hall extension.

Councillor Michael Law-Riding, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s executive member for leisure and culture said: "Local people deserve this brand new sport and leisure centre, which is benefiting the whole borough. And as well as providing this superb facility we are supporting the local economy and regeneration of Darwen town centre. “
"It was completed on schedule and within budget and is one of the best sports and leisure centres in the area. I am confident it will be very well used by people from the borough and beyond. And since it opened at the end of January attendances have gone ‘through the roof’ and applications for gym memberships have exceeded all our expectations,” he adds.