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We’ll Repair Spectrum, Not Build a New One, Says GBC

Published on: 25 Feb, 2021
Updated on: 26 Feb, 2021

Spectrum Leisure Centre

The borough council is to study refurbishing the Spectrum centre, built nearly 30 years ago, not replacing it, Cllr James Steel, lead for the Environment, has announced.

But protest was immediate. Sallie Barker, chair of the Guildford Conservative Association said: “The Spectrum is a much-loved, much-needed attraction, but it’s now very tired, drab and out of date. Guildford deserves better.

Sallie Barker

“Four years ago, studies concluded it was more cost-effective for the taxpayer to build a new Spectrum rather than continuously patch the present building, which has leaked since its opening.

“At that time, the cost for roof replacement alone, with a life expectancy of only 10 to 15 years, was in the region of £12m, with contractors unwilling to take on the work due to the complexity. Since then, costs can only have increased.

“And any repairs should have been done during the lockdowns to avoid impacting operations or risking customer safety.”

Cllr James Steel

Cllr Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough), said the centre, which hosts 1.7 million visitors a year, was “beginning to show its age and maintenance costs are rising”.

The Executive Advisory Board is backing a study on how to extend the present building’s lifespan to include not just costs but “value to residents” and achieving the council objective to reduce carbon emissions.

The 10-year contract signed with Freedom Leisure to run the complex ends this year.

“We are considering a proposal from Freedom Leisure to extend our partnership contract,” the councillor said.

“The contract allows for the possibility of two extensions of two years each, the first of which would take us to October 2023. This will give us time to learn more about what leisure facilities we need to provide for our residents after the pandemic.

Spectrum repairs underway in 2016. The building has a high maintenance cost; the roof has leaked since it opened in 1993. In 2011 operation of Spectrum was outsourced to Freedom Leisure.

“A replacement Spectrum is not being considered in the short-term, and money allocated to that project will be spent on ensuring we can make a fully-informed decision on the lifespan of the present building and future investment plans.

“The Spectrum also accounts for 50% of the council’s total energy consumption and associated carbon emissions, and our detailed studies will identify opportunities for reducing its future climate-change impact.

“This is the first stage in deciding our options for the future of a venue well-loved and valued by so many people in our borough and beyond.”

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Responses to We’ll Repair Spectrum, Not Build a New One, Says GBC

  1. Howard Smith Reply

    February 25, 2021 at 11:12 am

    There was a very good case made for building a new Spectrum a couple of years ago based on the high cost of continuing repairs. It’s understandable with the state of GBC’s finances today to delay this for a couple of years.

    But instead of spending the £300k that it will cost for a study, wouldn’t it be better to spend the £300k on keeping it going for another two years, then go for the replacement when finances permit?

    This seems to be a lot of dithering by the R4GV/ Lib Dem leadership. Unless of course, they are not too interested in a first-class sports centre for Guildford?

    Howard Smith is the vice-chair of Guildford Labour.

  2. George Potter Reply

    February 25, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    Both Sallie Barker and Howard Smith should speak to their own party’s councillors, none of whom objected to this new study, and all of whom appear to be part of the cross-party consensus at GBC that it is better to have all the facts to hand before deciding to plough ahead with an £80 million+ rebuilding project.

    George Potter is a Lib Dem borough councillor for Burpham.

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