The cost of building the new leisure centres and pools in Rivermead and Palmer Park has risen by more than £2 million.

The new leisure facilities were expected to cost £36 million but are now set to cost more than £38 million.

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Full Council will vote on whether to approve the increased costs on Tuesday, June 8.

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Councillor Graeme Hoskin, lead member for Health, said he is “really pleased and excited that we are now on the verge of starting the building of our new pools and leisure centres”.

He added: “Despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year and the related extra costs, the Council remains fully committed to delivering the modern new leisure facilities a town of our size and status deserves.

“A national survey published this month revealed that a third of council-run leisure centres are facing permanent closure. We aim to do everything in our power to ensure this does not happen in Reading.”

He said it would be unrealistic not to expect final construction costs to shift in a project of this size and complexity in ordinary times, let alone during a pandemic.

If the increased costs are approved, the council and GLL will sign the design, build, operate and maintain contract and construction work will start this summer.

The new Palmer Park pool and leisure centre is expected to open in autumn 2022, while the replacement Rivermead Leisure Centre is scheduled to open in spring 2023.

Rivermead will have a 25m eight-lane competition pool, splash pad, diving pool and 25m five-lane club/swim lesson pool (the demountable pool).

An artists impression of the new leisure centre that will replace Rivermead Leisure Complex

An artist's impression of the new leisure centre that will replace Rivermead Leisure Complex

An artists impression of the new leisure centre at Palmer Park

An artist's impression of the new leisure centre at Palmer Park

Palmer Park will have a 25m, six-lane community pool, 100-station gym with three studios, activity zone for children with party rooms and a new café and information hub.

What were the previous estimated costs?

In February 2021, Reading Borough Council (RBC) approved its capital budget, which included £34.5 million to expand leisure facilities in the town, including two new pools and improvements to existing leisure facilities.

It hoped an additional £1.5 million would be covered by Sports England grant, with the total cost of the project around £36 million.

The planning applications for both Rivermead and Palmer Park were then approved by the council’s Planning Applications committee in March.

Why have the costs gone up?

Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) has now presented RBC with its final expected construction costs, which have risen from £36 million to around £38.5 million.

Around £1.2 million of this is due to Covid-19 delays, with construction costs inflated and additional safety measures needed to comply with current Covid construction advice.

The other main reason for the increase is extra costs to ensure compliance with planning conditions.

The increased expenditure will be funded from the Community Infrastructure Levy, a tax on developments.

If RBC receives £1.5 million from Sport England to fund the project, with a decision expected on whether it will get the funding on June 15, the council will have to cough up around £37 million in total.

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If it does not receive the Sport England funding, the council will add another £1.5 million to its capital budget but has not explained where this money will come from.

Both RBC and GLL believe the new costs are at a competitive market rate and compare favourably to some other recently built leisure centres (see table below).

The council said, to keep the costs from rising, it would have to revert back to a four-lane pool at Palmer Park or omitted some of the works to existing facilities such as a new roof at Palmer Park.

It said this would also mean submitting a new planning application for Palmer Park, delaying its construction and adding extra re-design fees and additional construction inflation costs

The other option would be for the council to pull out of the deal with GLL and find a new development partner or develop the project in-house.

But the council said an an in-house project would cost around £1.7m extra per annum to run once all centres are fully operating and re-provisioned.