Plans for new £34m leisure centre approved

Plans for a new £34 million leisure centre featuring a 25m pool, flumes and a cafe have been approved – and it will be built to the highest environmental standards.

Cascades, in Thong Lane, Gravesend, is to be replaced as part of the “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to upgrade leisure facilities in the borough.

Gravesham council are asking for public views on a new leisure centre to replace Cascades

At a cabinet meeting last night, Gravesham Borough Council (GBC) decided the construction would adopt an approach known as Passivhaus.

The method was recommend by officers as it contributes towards the council’s pledge to become a net zero borough by 2030.

Leader of GBC Cllr John Burden said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for us to provide a leisure centre to be proud of for our current and future families of the borough.

“Anyone who uses our centre at Cascades knows that it has reached the end of its natural life and a replacement is needed.

“We need to take this opportunity to create a centre fit for the 21st century, both in terms of the facilities available and its impact on the environment.

“There is currently only one Passivhaus standard leisure centre in the country, which officers have visited to understand how we can work to the same principles here in Gravesham and get as close to Passivhaus levels as we can while keeping the project affordable.

The swimming pool in 1990Cllr John Burden says the council need to act now

“Aiming for such high environmental standards comes at a financial cost, but to shy away from this target would be false economy as further down the line we would be obliged to carry out extensive and expensive further work to retrofit the new building to meet government legislative requirements to achieve its national net zero target by 2050.

“We need to do it properly and seriously, and we need to do it now.”

Cascades leisure centre is the second biggest emitter of carbon in the council’s estate of buildings after the Civic Centre.

Councillors also agreed on elements of the design which will include a café, hub and reception zone, soft play, water area with slash pad and internal flumes, community spaces and improvements to the outdoor areas.

A 25m, eight lane swimming pool capable of hosting regional competitive swimming events, a teaching pool, a permanent 100-spectator seating area for the main pool, a six-court sports hall, fitness suite and spin studio were also agreed upon.

Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, cabinet member for community and leisure, said the new centre should attract both serious sports competitors and those looking for more relaxed, family-orientated activities.

The gym inside the current centreCllr Shane Mochrie-Cox said the new centre should attract serious sporting competitions

He said: “We know through our engagement with the community that an improved leisure offer in the borough is something that residents and visitors have asked for some time.

“We are determined to deliver on this improved offer in line with our long-term Sports, Leisure and Active Recreation Strategy which seeks not only to develop this borough-wide sport and leisure offer but also tackle the wider health inequalities that have plagued our borough for too long.

“Our new leisure centre at Cascades represents just the first phase of this approach, facilitating a holistic experience for people to live a healthier lifestyle, enjoy fun, new experiences and develop their sport and training expertise as well as hosting competitions up to regional level right here in Gravesham.

“Once Cascades is complete we shall work on proposals for leisure plans in the west of the borough including Cygnets and we will engage with residents in the same way we are working with residents on the replacement for Cascades.

“We are fully committed to retaining two municipal leisure centres in the borough and will work with our communities to maintain this offer while on this journey.

“In the meantime, both current facilities at Cygnets and Cascades will remain fully open and operational.”

The new facility will be the second of its kind in the country. Picture: Steve Crispe

He added that it was important local people continued to have their say on what they would like the new centre to include. You can take part in the consultation here.

Cllr Mochrie-Cox added: “While Cabinet has voted for its preferred scheme at this point in time it simply gives us a broad picture of the direction we should be going in.

“We are still at an early stage in working up designs and we do want to know what current and potential users would like to see.

“This will be a community venue and it’s important the community tells us what it wants and why.”

Days Out Gravesham Kent News Tourism & Hospitality Alex Langridge

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