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Case Studies

Hart District Council

Development of New Hart Leisure Centre


Context

Following a needs assessment and feasibility study, Hart District Council decided to develop a new leisure centre to replace their existing facility in Fleet. The new £23m centre was funded through a combination of S106 (from the significant housing development in the District), and Prudential Borrowing.

The Council appointed Strategic Leisure Limited (SLL) to project manage the overall development of the new £23m facility, plus its operational procurement and that of an existing dual use dryside facility.

Prior to the project commencement, SLL undertook an operational management options appraisal which highlighted the revenue savings, capital investment opportunity and risk reduction to be gained by outsourcing. Although the existing in-house service was exceptionally good, it was unable to compete on cost, given the NNDR savings that would be attributable to an outsourced service.

SLL also worked with the Council to assess procurement options, which resulted in the decision to undertake two separate procurement processes for operation and construction, but run them in parallel, to get best value from the widest possible markets. However, given the fact that the Council planned to invest significantly in new provision, it was really keen to understand what the market’s view would be on contract length, apportionment of risk, utility costs and allocation, maintenance responsibilities, future capital investment (particularly in the dual-use facility), timescales for taking on the new facility, arrangements for mobilisation and service continuity, and critically payment back to the Council.

SLL therefore undertook a market testing exercise as part of the initial procurement process for the operational management.

Following this work, and prior to the start of the procurement process, Wilmott Dixon (WD) was appointed as the facility developers, through SCAPE, and the project architect appointed was GT Architects (GT).

Approach

SLL set up all the required project management systems for the project to progress, in partnership with HDC, between October and December 2013, and work commenced in January 2014. This include a Project Board and Project Steering Group; meetings were planned on the same day to best use all project resources and ensure the reporting line for the project fed into Council meetings in a timely manner to ensure all decisions could be made effectively.

A detailed Project Plan was developed, setting out all the key tasks and project timeline, as well as key milestones. A Risk Register was also developed and monitored throughout the project process.

The project was developed on the basis of separate, but linked procurement processes for the construction and operation, with the appointment of the operator planned for 12 months prior to the opening of the new facility. This meant that the appointed operator would run the two existing facilities for Year 1 of the contract, and then Year 2 would see the closure of the existing Hart Leisure Centre, and the opening of the new Hart Leisure Centre, with the contract period spanning a total of 11 years with a 5-year option to extend.

HDC officers worked closely with SLL, Wilmott Dixon(WD) and GT Architects to develop the facility mix, design and layout of the new facility, reflecting a previous SLL feasibility study, but also the significant population growth in the District, and specifically the demand for additional water space.
WD worked in partnership with GT Architects to develop the scheme finishes and appearance, within the defined capital cost envelope.

During this process, we met regularly with Members to share ideas and discuss options, including the detailed configuration of the water space. SLL developed detailed revenue modelling to illustrate and test the various options; this demonstrated that a three-pool offer would deliver better against the Council’s identified outcomes, than would a 50m pool.

SLL looked at a number of new facility developments and contract arrangements to inform the procurement process, so we had a view of the financial return the Council wanted to achieve, plus the arrangements it wanted to secure in terms of risk etc.

SLL drafted market testing documents, based around an introduction to the project, the Council’s Vision and objectives and a series of questions. SLL contacted a large sample of market operators both by email and telephone to invite them to respond and talked them through any queries / observations they had.

SLL then developed all the required procurement documentation i.e. Advert, PQQ, ITT, Evaluation matrix and the service specification, financial submission document, together with all appropriate supporting appendices. HDC legal officers provided procurement and legal advice on behalf of the Council, working closely with SLL. The PQQ attracted 16 submissions, which were shortlisted to 6. 4 Companies submitted at ITT stage, following a period of clarification questions, site and facility visits, and a Bidders’ Day.

Outcomes

The outcome of the project is a new £23m leisure centre, with dry, wet and outdoor provision, sited adjacent to a new Country Park. The centre’s facilities comprise:

  • 25m x 8 lane pool
  • 25m x 4 lane pool (with moveable floor)
  • Learner pool (with introductory water area capable of heated to a very high temperature, for use by those with a disability, or very young children)
  • 8 badminton court sports hall and viewing gallery
  • A 160 station fitness suite
  • 3 studios
  • Dedicated spinning studio
  • Café
  • Full size floodlit 3G pitch
  • 5 number small football cages
  • The procurement exercise realised the appointment of Everyone Active as the Council’s operating partner. Everyone Active contributed capital investment to both the new facility and the existing dual-use facility, plus took all operating risk on utilities, lifecycle maintenance etc. The operator also engaged with the design process, given the timing of the two procurement processes.
  • The Council will receive the equivalent of £11m from the operator over the contract period, which effectively mitigates any Prudential Borrowing costs.
  • The new Hart Leisure Centre opened in April 2018; it is performing very well and attracting very significant throughput across all provision. Fitness membership is already hitting levels anticipated for year 3 of the contract and beyond.

Lessons Learnt

The facility is designed to look and feel like a commercial sector offer; this works extremely well in terms of design and colours, and means the facility is easy to clean.

Based on initial months of operation, there could have been more and larger studio space, and the access to the pool area from the changing room could be more effective.

Whilst large, the reception area could have included more space for membership and sales staff, as well as a larger retail offer.

Client Comments

“Having worked on and off with Strategic Leisure for seven years, I can only say congratulations. Every time I have asked they have delivered``.

Carl Westby
Head of Leisure and Landscapes