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Q&A - Great Yarmouth Water and Leisure Complex

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What has happened so far?

Great Yarmouth's famous Golden Mile is receiving an exciting £26m investment in a new water and leisure complex, providing a major year-round boost to Great Yarmouth as a coastal resort and supporting community health and well-being for residents across the borough.

Following an initial feasibility study and options appraisal, full council agreed in November 2017 to further develop and progress a new-build option, with more detailed proposals approved in December 2018, including the site of the old Marina Centre on Marine Parade as the location for the new facility.

During March 2019, two weeks on public engagement took place on the concept designs, which has helped to shape the final design and wider project. In June 2019 the council agreed to start the formal planning process, with approval granted in November 2019.

The old Marina Centre closed to the public on 31 October 2019, with demolition and site levelling taking place between February and August 2020. The Council appointed Morgan Sindall Construction as the main contractor in November 2020, following a competitive multi-stage procurement process.

What are the next steps and when will the new complex be complete?

The build and fitting out of the building is now well underway, and Freedom Leisure has been appointed to operate the centre on behalf of the council. The centre will open in August 2022.

What public engagement has taken place?

During two weeks of public engagement, from Wednesday 6 March to Tuesday 19 March 2019, the public were invited to view exhibition boards on display in both the Marina Centre and Gorleston Library, to meet the design team at one of three staffed drop-in sessions, and to share their views on the concept designs. People could also feed back online. 

The public engagement opportunities were widely promoted via the media, social media, e-shots to Marina Centre users and tourism businesses, posters and targeted invitation letters to stakeholders.

Public feedback helped to shape the look and feel of the final designs for the new facility. A total of 294 completed responses were received.

Why didn't you just keep the old centre as it was?

The council is committed to modernising and enhancing the health and fitness activities and opportunities available to people across the borough. The old centre was an ageing building that would have required significant investment to remain fully operational and meet customer expectations in the longer term. As the first phase of the project development, an initial feasibility study and options appraisal took place. The options appraisal identified that the 'do nothing' option represented a managed decline of the facility and service to the community, as the visitor experience would fall further behind customer expectations over time. This would simply be deferring a decision on the long-term future of the building. Ultimately, this would have resulted in a large empty building in a prime site on the seafront.

Why rebuild rather than refurbish?

While the council initially investigated the possibility of refurbishing the old Marina Centre, with public consultation taking place during 2016, it is important to recognise that both new build and full refurbishment would require significant capital investment. Following a review and comparison of full refurbishment and new build options, the full council agreed in November 2017 to progress a new-build option.

The options appraisal considered by full council in 2017 was stage one of the project development, and identified that replacing the old Marina Centre with a high quality efficient water and leisure complex, with a designed life of up to 40 years, represents a longer-term solution and better value for money than refurbishing the old centre. A new build will also mean that the programme and cost risks can be more easily managed than compared to a refurbishment, where structural risks such as plant, mechanical and electrical issues would need to be mitigated against.

Where will the new water and leisure complex go and why there?

In December 2018, full council confirmed the site of the old Marina Centre, on Marine Parade, as the location for the new complex. The design team of architects and sports consultants explored options for rebuilding (either wholly or partially) over the footprint of the old centre, or elsewhere on the seafront.

The study identified that building within the site of the old centre represented better value for money and less project risk, especially as the key utilities and services required for a water and leisure complex are already in place at the current site. It will also mean less disruption to seafront businesses and create the opportunity for 100 additional car parking spaces.

What facilities will be in the new complex?

The facilities reflect the prime seafront location and the council's ambition to create a truly year-round 'anchor attraction' on the Golden Mile, including two water flumes, a splash pad, confidence water area, learner pool with moveable floor, and a six-lane 25m pool with full disabled access, which will be suitable for galas and competitions.

The complex will also be equipped with a state-of-the-art 100-station health and fitness gym with views to the sea; four-court multi-purpose sports hall; indoor climbing zone for all ages; accessible multi-use flexible community spaces that can be used for a wide range of activities and services; a café with fabulous views over the famous beach.

How accessible will the new complex be for those with disabilities?

Ensuring the complex is full accessible for disabled people is a key consideration for both the public and the council. The council is committed to providing equality of opportunity for our residents and communities. A detailed equalities impact assessment was also completed to ensure that this was fully considered. The building has been designed to welcome everyone.

The complex will have full disabled access, including an open link through to the café for general access as well as ensuring that all areas of the facilities are fully accessible.

The two lifts within the building will both have a 13-person capacity and allow for wheelchair use. In addition, there will be a 'Changing Places' toilet catering for a much greater range of needs and include an adult-friendly changing table, hoists, additional space, non-slip specialist flooring, in addition to an accessible toilet, sink and handrails.

The main pool will have ambulant stairs with a handrail, in addition to two user-controlled lifts to take wheelchair users down into the water, one of which will be able to cater for both a wheelchair and a carer or companion.

The learner pool will have a moveable pool floor that can be raised and lowered, plus one pool pod to gain access. The splash pad will be fully wheelchairs-accessible. The intention is that the steps leading up to the flumes will be ambulant and the two-person flume is suitable for those who are still able to use this form of access.

What are the design principles?

The architect's vision is for an environmentally-sustainable landmark building and community space that integrates well with the wider Golden Mile, a building that is visually exciting with improved sight lines and linkage to the seafront. This is a more compact and efficient complex on the site of the old centre, with facilities spread over two floors to minimise the building mass as well as its impact on its surroundings.

From the outside, the building will showcase the activities going on inside, with the gym and fitness studios visible from the street, and the climbing zone, leisure water and café visible from the beach. There will be a new café with beach views as well as new facilities to encourage new users such as leisure water and a climbing facility.

The interior design approach is to create an internal walkthrough from the main entrance on Marine Parade, leading through the heart of the building to the beach frontage, whilst maintaining a visual link between the two. The walkthrough will end with the café facing out to the sea. The route will be partly lit by natural daylight and gives views between the floors to and from the gym.

What about a phased demolition and construction?

Significant project development work, undertaken with a design team of architects and sports consultants, explored various possible approaches for the re-build. Implementing a phased demolition and construction on the old site was not found to be a practical, cost-effective or safe option.

What about minimising impact on the seafront?

A key reason for looking to rebuild on the site of the old centre, rather than another location, is to minimise the unavoidable impact on the seafront during the works, which is a priority. Some temporary impact is still inevitable during both the demolition and construction phases, given the size and location of the site and the duration of works.

Please be assured that arrangements are in place, working with our contractor and sub-contractors, to minimise any temporary impact on the seafront, which is already significantly reduced because the new centre is being built on the site of the old one. There are planning and contract restrictions in respect of traffic movement, and the contractor has to follow a Construction Phase Plan to minimise noise and dust.  

To reflect the high profile location and the size and duration of the works, the wooden hoardings along the whole Marine Parade frontage have been decorated with a beautiful artwork telling the story of the redevelopment project and the seafront itself, including lovely photos from across the decades.

It is important to recognise that, while there might be temporary disruption, a new destination water and leisure complex will be a major investment delivering significant benefits for the seafront and whole borough.

How much will the new Marina Centre cost and how will it be funded?

Following detailed costing work, the total project cost is approximately £26m. The project is funded by Great Yarmouth Borough Council, plus £2.5m secured from the Government's Getting Building Fund, via New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, £1.6m from Sport England, and £500,000 from Pooled Business Rates.   

How was Morgan Sindall Construction chosen as the main contractor? 

The council undertook a formal multi-stage procurement process to ensure best value for money. A total of 11 tenders were received in the qualification stage by the closing date. The Stage 1 tender involved an interview process, with the tenders reduced to two. Morgan Sindall Construction was chosen as the preferred bidder and subsequently appointed.

How is Morgan Sindall Construction supporting the local economy and community through this contract?

The construction will bolster the local economy, with 75 per cent of the project's supply chain being drawn from SME companies in Great Yarmouth. It will also create training and employment opportunities for people living locally. During the development, Morgan Sindall Construction and its supply chain will provide real-world training for Great Yarmouth apprentices, with around 182 weeks of training being provided for young people during the life of the project.

The scheme will also create 10 work experience placements and three mentorships for young people progressing careers in the sector, while four placements will be created for people who are out of work, to provide them the opportunity to refresh their skill-sets, gain current experience, and learn more about career pathways in the construction industry.

Last modified on 02 May 2024

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