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COVID-19 delays leisure centre's grand opening

The opening of the Braywick Leisure Centre will be delayed by just over a week as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Councillors on the Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel were told on Tuesday, June 9, that the £32.8millon project would be ready to open on Sunday, September 14, provided no further complications occur as a result of the virus, and the Government permits the opening of leisure centres.

The centre had been scheduled to open to the public on Friday, September 5 before the outbreak occurred.

Councillors were informed at the meeting that although contractors Wates Construction had only paused works for three days as a result of the outbreak, other delays, caused by other subcontractors furloughing staff, had led to the change in the projected opening.

Cllr Samantha Rayner (Con, Eton and Castle), lead member for leisure services, praised the project at the meeting. She said: “People really want more and more leisure and community facilities, this is a fantastic facility that we are going to be incredibly proud of in the Royal Borough.

“It has taken a long time but I think we are heading for something that’s going to be quite stunning and wonderful for our residents.”

At the meeting, councillors were also told that the impact of COVID-19 had caused the cost of the project to rise, but it is not yet known what that cost will be. Another cause for delay has been difficulties with filling the pool, which was meant to take place on Monday, June 15.

Subcontractors from the Netherlands had been due to install the pool lift at the beginning of the month, but because of the 14-day quarantine rules for people entering the country, this process has been slowed. The pool is now expected to be filled by the end of the month.

Speaking at the meeting, Graham Clarkson, chairman of the Clarkson Alliance, the firm project managing the construction said: “The quality of the build is very good, the architects feel quite particular in terms of the detail and the finish. I have been involved in the building of a number of leisure centres and this is one of the largest and most prestigious ones I have been involved with."

He added that it is possible the opening date could be pushed back further if extensive social distancing measures have to be installed in the centre after its completion.

Staff may also require further training in social distancing procedures, depending on how the government goes about reopening the nation’s leisure centres.

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