Older half of Ripon Leisure Centre 'would have to close for good' without £3.5m groundworks

The underground voids were found beneath the older half of the leisure centre which was built in 1995.The underground voids were found beneath the older half of the leisure centre which was built in 1995.
The underground voids were found beneath the older half of the leisure centre which was built in 1995.
The older half of Ripon Leisure Centre would have to permanently close unless newly-approved groundworks costing £3.5 million are carried out, a council official has said.

Trevor Watson, director of economy, environment and housing at Harrogate Borough Council, made the statement at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday when councillors agreed to the remedial works on underground voids found at the site.

Mr Watson also stressed that the leisure centre's new swimming pool - which opened in March - is unaffected by what is planned and will remain open throughout.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We really do need to seek to address the ground conditions," he said.

"If we chose not to do the work, then the reality is we wouldn't be reopening the leisure centre."

Mr Watson added the underground voids are believed to have been present for several years and were not caused by building works for the new pool.

The discovery during the pool construction in 2020 prompted an investigation by an engineering firm which this month revealed the extent of the ground stability issues at the site.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Stantec found “significantly weak” areas of ground beneath the older half of the leisure centre built in 1995 and also warned that not carrying out groundworks would be “unacceptable from a public safety perspective”.

The works due to start in December mean more costs and delays for the venue's new pool and refurbishment project which is believed to have cost in excess of £18 million so far.

The original contract awarded to construction company Willmott Dixon was worth £10.2 million for the scheme originally due for completion in May 2021.

The project was approved in 2019 despite some councillors raising “deep concerns” over ground issues at the site where a sinkhole opened up the previous year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Speaking at Wednesday's meeting, councillor Graham Swift, deputy leader of the council, said it was "good fortune" that the underground voids were discovered before a more serious collapse could have occurred.

He said: "As a result of the fact that technologies have improved over the last 25 years, we have learnt a lot more about what is under the leisure facility.

"This is actually good fortune as it is good to know now. If we hadn't had the swimming pool, we wouldn't have discovered this until a genuine incident."

Councillor Swift also said it was "very exciting" that a temporary gym is planned for the leisure centre car park during the groundworks which will close parts of the venue for at least 10 months from November.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The temporary gym will cost an additional £300,000, while the pool will remain open.

The leisure centre is reported to now have more than 14,000 members since the pool opened, generating around £34,000 a month which the council said will help offset some of the groundwork costs.

After these works are carried out, the refurbishment is scheduled for completion in spring 2024.

By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter