• + 44 (0) 7825 139151

Case Studies

St Albans City and District Council

Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre and Cotlandswick Community Centre


St Albans City and District Council (SACDC) embarked on an ambitious strategy to replace the existing Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre in St Albans and to develop a commercial/ community facility in London Colney which will also replace an existing facility albeit on a different site.

In terms of the Westminster Lodge site the existing facility is circa early 1970's and at the end of its useful life. The facility would require significant investment if a new leisure centre was not delivered.

The Council commissioned the design of a replacement for the current Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre following a feasibility study undertaken by external consultants and decided to build the facility directly using external architects, project managers and construction company, rather than including the development as part of a DBFO or DBOM project.

Strategic Leisure were commissioned (via Drivers Jonas Deloitte) to develop the business case for the new facility which formed the basis of the Council funding the development through prudential borrowing. The Council's leisure service has been externalised for many years and the intention is that the new facility's operation will be subject to a separate operator procurement process.

Whilst this development was being progressed the Council also decided to develop a new facility in London Colney to replace a small community facility. This facility was intended to address for the ongoing sport and leisure needs of the residents and visitors to the district in place of Bricket Wood Sports Centre which closed in February 2010) and London Colney Recreation Centre (scheduled to close when the new Facility is built at Cotlandswick).

Both projects are seen as being critical to deliver the Council's aspirations for sport and leisure in the district.


SACDC procure the design and construction directly appointing Drivers Jonas Deloiite and Strategic Leisure to assist in the process with Strategic Leisure providing specialist leisure and procurement advice where required.

The construction contract was procured following the design stage and was undertaken using the Restricted Procedure. The contract was eventually awarded to Wilmot Dixon for the construction with the facility designed by S & P Architects.

SACDC decided at an early stage to separate the procurement the construction of the facility and the procurement of an operator to manage the new leisure centre centre. There are a number of factors that went into the ultimate decision e.g.

The Council was funding the entire project.
The Council had a clear strategy and idea of the facility mix therefore the need to use the market to determine these was not necessary i.e. Design, Build, Fund and operate (DBFO) or Design, Build Operate and Maintain (DBOM).
By appointing the architect, project managers and construction company the Council
could have more control of the outcomes

For the operator contract, the Council had externalised the service nearly twenty years ago and therefore the decision to re procure for the new facility was straightforward. Again the Restricted Procedure is being used which simplifies the procurement process but does not allow for any negotiation of the final contract, what the Council includes in the Invitation to Tender is what the potential operator must deliver.

Whilst the construction contract has been let and the practical completion is due in the summer of 2012, the operator procurement process is at the pre tender stage with an anticipated selection of the operator in April 2012 allowing a minimum 3 months for mobilisation.

The Cotlandswick project, as it is a design and build project, has been procured through the Competitive Dialogue Procedure do to the Council being less prescriptive in terms of the facility mix and relying on the innovation of the leisure market to determine how the Council's aspirations could be delivered. This project is at the final bid stage and the Council is evaluating the final solutions presented.

Lessons Learnt

The process for the Westminster lodge project, from the original feasibility in 2006 to completion of the build and handover to the new external operator, will have taken nearly
6 years. The operator contract will take approximately 9 months from the initial advertisement.

The timescale for Cotlandswick has been a lot shorter, even so the process has taken two years to date.

The use of the CDP procedure has been satisfactory in the Cotlandswick project as the developers/operator led design and build approach allowed the Council to influence the design and facility mix at strategic points during the process.


These are complex and time consuming projects and are still ongoing.

However, the Westminster Lodge facility is progressing well and due to be completed on time. The Cotlandswick project is at final tender stage and a decision has not been made as yet. However, for the former the process has worked well but was complicated by the financial failure of the original construction company and the reserve contractor was appointed therefore delaying the start of the build. In terms of the Cotlandswick project whilst the Council basic requirement appears to have been met the level of commercial interest was disappointing.