Plans for £34 million leisure centre to replace Cascades in Gravesend approved

Plans for a £34 million leisure centre to replace Cascades have been given the green light.

A feasibility study found that both Cascades and Cygnet leisure centres in Gravesend and Northfleet are ageing and suggested replacing Cascades.

Cascades Leisure Centre, in Gravesend. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Cascades Leisure Centre, in Gravesend. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

The report proposes building a new leisure centre in the car park of Cascades, which would remain open while construction was ongoing. It will then be demolished once the new centre has opened, expected to be in 2024.

The new centre would include an eight-lane swimming pool, with a 100 seat spectator area for swimming galas, a 10m x 20m teaching pool, three studios for health and fitness sessions, a gym, squash courts, sports hall and community rooms of primary care sessions such as weight management, health screening, and dietary advice.

While the existing Regan’s bar would have to be demolished, plans also include a lobby foyer and cafe with a soft play and ‘clip and climb’ area.

At a Gravesham cabinet meeting council leader John Burden (Lab) remembered when Cascades was first built: “I think this is an exciting project. It is what is needed, the previous building has done its time.

“Unfortunately I have a certain degree of history with that building, I remember when it was put up as that’s when I joined the council.

Cascades Swimming Pool, pictured after the pool opened
Cascades Swimming Pool, pictured after the pool opened

“I know at the time there were debates about whether it was in the right location. It is where it is and I think it has proved to be very popular with residents.

“It is now old and tired, and we do need to change it because it’s no longer fit for purpose. It’s something this borough deserves."

Built in the 1960s and 70s, Cascades only got its swimming pool in 1988 before being refurbished again in 2010 with a fitness suite.

Cascades leisure centre will be replaced with a new £34 million leisure facility. Stock picture
Cascades leisure centre will be replaced with a new £34 million leisure facility. Stock picture

Council officers and a consultancy team will now begin on drawing up plans for the new leisure centre.

Cllr Lenny Roles (Lab) said: “The report shows the importance of upgrading the centre, and it's made in mind with our climate change agenda to be carbon neutral by 2030.

“I know it comes as a bit of a shock to politicians nowadays, but it’s us delivering on a manifesto to support and improve leisure services in our borough.”

In a statement issued after the meeting, Cllr Burden said: “In recent years we have invested in modern gym equipment and refurbishing areas of Cascades such as the dry side changing rooms.

“However, there is no escaping the fact that the actual fabric of the building is now at the end of its natural life. A condition survey carried out in 2019 found almost £500,000 of work was needed over the next two years, work described as critical to the continued operation of the centre.

The existing Cascades Leisure Centre, Thong Lane, Gravesend
The existing Cascades Leisure Centre, Thong Lane, Gravesend

“Added to that, there will be a need for further major capital investment over the next five to 10 years to replace plant and machinery.

“And that is all before we even begin to consider the scale of the work required to address changes needed to help us achieve our goal of becoming a net zero borough by 2030. Given the buildings are more than 30 years old, those works are likely to be extensive and expensive.”

Cllr Burden added the layout of the centre also had to be taken into consideration which, because of the way it was developed in phases, was far from ideal and didn’t lend itself to major refurbishment and remodelling, the cost of which in itself would run into the tens of millions of pounds.

Work already identified includes an extensive overhaul of the water flumes; ageing poolside changing areas that require substantial work which would see them closed for a substantial period of time; and the complete replacement of the main pool plant.

He went on: “While it will, of course, cost more to build a new leisure centre, the feasibility study is clear that this should be balanced against the significant benefits starting with a blank sheet of paper will bring in terms of designing a more modern and rationally designed building, with the greater capacity for generating income that will bring.”

Cllr John Burden described it as 'an exciting project'
Cllr John Burden described it as 'an exciting project'

Cabinet’s decision gives officers the authority, in consultation with the leader of the council, to take all necessary practical, financial and legal actions required to deliver the leisure centre within agreed budgets.

Cllr Shane Mochrie-Cox, Gravesham council’s cabinet member for community and leisure, said the ambition was the new Cascades would be a leisure centre boasting regional facilities, particularly the new 6-8 lane swimming pool but would also include accommodation for organisations such as the NHS to provide health and well-being centres for local people.

Cllr Mochrie-Cox said: “This is not just about providing a top-line, regional leisure centre for the enjoyment of local people.

“As a council we are committed to addressing the very real health inequalities in our borough. There are many strands to doing that, including making quality health and leisure facilities widely available and affordable, and working with partners to support and safeguard vulnerable residents by being proactive in addressing healthy living issues that might be affecting them.

“All of these things will be possible from a new, purpose built and carefully designed leisure centre.

“I am extremely excited at the prospect of a new, modern, climate change friendly leisure centre for this borough.”

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