Planning application lodged for Harpenden’s new leisure and cultural hub

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News release: 28 February 2018

St Albans City and District Council has submitted a planning application for a new £18.8m leisure and cultural development to serve Harpenden and the surrounding area.

Architect's impression of Harpenden Leisure Centre
The Council wants to transform Harpenden Swimming Pool into a leisure centre for various sports, and the sports centre into a modern arts and cultural centre.

The plans for the new Harpenden Leisure Centre involve extending the swimming pool building. This will provide space for a larger learner pool, with a moveable floor and located alongside a refurbished main pool. There will also be a new sports hall, wet and dry changing facilities and a significantly larger gym with more than 160 stations. Provision is also being made for three dance studios, a crèche, as well as a sauna and a steam room with a relaxation area for users of these two facilities. In addition, visitors will have access to a café and a poolside viewing gallery with seating for spectators.

The plans for the new arts and culture facility provide for a larger theatre than currently exists at Harpenden Public Halls, with 511 seats. There will be a multi-purpose room, a cultural and heritage exhibition space, as well as bars on two floors and a café overlooking Rothamsted Park. A first-floor ramp and bridge will form an entrance to the new arts and leisure centre from the park.

The plans also provide for a significant increase in car and cycling parking facilities.

The plans have been influenced by a consultation with stakeholders, including local residents, sports clubs, arts and cultural societies, gym users and councillors. This included briefing sessions, a charette-style design workshop, hosted by independent facilitators, and a pre-planning application exhibition. The public was also given the opportunity to put forward their views on the proposed development via an online questionnaire.

Ideas suggested by stakeholders that have been incorporated into the plans include:

• a larger learner pool which is three times the size of the current one;
• a balcony in the arts and cultural centre that will bring proposed seating levels up to 511;
• a ramp entrance to the arts and cultural centre;
• a number of multi-purpose rooms to accommodate rehearsals, meetings and events;
• a relaxation area for users of the new sauna and the steam room.

The cost of development is expected to be met from increased revenue made possible by having a modern facility with more gym, theatre and swimming pool space.

Cllr Annie Brewster, Portfolio Holder for Sports, Leisure and Heritage at St Albans City and District Council, said: “These proposed new leisure, arts and cultural facilities will serve Harpenden, Redbourn, Wheathampstead and the surrounding area for generations to come. So, great care has been taken in developing the current plans for these amazing modern facilities. An extensive pre-application consultation has produced fantastic ideas that have helped influence and improve on the initial plans. Now the public will have another opportunity to comment on the proposed development through the planning process.”

Cllr Julian Daly, Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Development at St Albans City and District Council, said: “The redevelopment of leisure, arts and cultural facilities in Harpenden is part of an ongoing strategy to upgrade facilities across the District. In the last five years, the Council has opened Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre, re-built Batchwood Sports Centre following a fire, and built the new Cotlandswick Sports Centre. It is also looking at upgrading the Alban Arena and improving athletics facilities located in St Albans.”

If the development is given planning approval, steps will be taken to minimise disruption to local residents and the use of the Amenbury Lane car park. The Council’s website will carry updates on the project, including on when works may be noisy or will take place at the car park. Contractors will be provided with their own parking area so the Amenbury Lane car park can operate with as little disruption as possible. 

More information about the planned redevelopment of leisure, arts and cultural facilities for Harpenden is available on the Council's website.

Councillor contacts:

Cllr Annie Brewster, Sports and Culture Portfolio Holder for at St Albans City and District Council 
Tel: 01438 832255

Cllr Julian Daly, Portfolio Holder for Commercial and Development at St Albans City and District Council 
Tel: 07775 657200 

Contact for the media:
Amanda Wilkinson, 
Senior Communications Officer 
St Albans City and District Council
Tel: 01727 819317 
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Details of the planning application can be found on the Council's planning portal using the site location *Harpenden Sports Centre*.

Above: Architect's impression of Harpenden's Leisure Centre
Architect's impression of Harpenden cultural and arts centre

Left: Architect's impression of the Harpenden cultural and arts centre