St Albans swimming pool scheme gets two extra lanes

TWO additional lanes are to be added to the swimming pool at the new Westminster Lodge leisure centre in St Albans.

Following discussions with contractors Willmott Dixon, internal changes to the building which is under construction, have been agreed – at no extra cost to council taxpayers.

Instead of the controversial eight-lane pool which had come under fire from many quarters as inadequate for the anticipated number of swimmers who would use it, there will now be 10 lanes providing a further 100 sq ms of water space.

To enable the pool to be enlarged, the council has sacrificed the poolside health suite which included a spa – but a spa facility is being provided elsewhere in the centre.

Cost savings have come from changes to construction materials and finishes as well as delaying the installation of solar panels which are expected to come down in price in the future.

St Albans council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, whose Conservative group took control last month, said: “By changing the specifications we have freed up enough money to keep within the budget. Also the ongoing running costs will be broadly neutral because there will be more swimmers.”

He was particularly delighted that the changes had been achieved so quickly. “It is very difficult to achieve particularly in the public sector,” he commented

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Cllr Daly said that as chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee prior to the election, he had accepted the argument that the district would be short of water capacity and that the problem could be eased by the addition of a couple of extra lanes.

Cllr Mike Wakely, the council’s portfolio holder for sport who is a civil engineer by profession, added: “To make major changes to engineering works is extremely challenging at any time but particularly so while the building’s piled foundations are being build.

“However with full appreciation to Willmott Dixon’s project manager and all involved, a deal to widen the main pool to 10 lanes has been finalised.”