Hackney council’s troubled leisure centre suffers further delays, as total cost heads towards £37m

Clissold delayed until 2006
Clissold delayed until 2006

Clissold Leisure Centre in north London will not reopen until February 2006 and the total cost of building and repairing it could be more than £37m, Hackney council has revealed.

At a council meeting on Monday, councillors agreed to set aside an extra £5.1m for repair works to be carried out on the leisure centre, which has been shut since last December.

The repair costs would bring the total cost of the centre to £37.1m, £15m more than planned. Moreover, the re-opening date will be almost four years after the centre first opened – two and a half years late – in March 2002.

The decision to provide the extra money follows a report by architect Bickerdike Allen and engineer Arup, which determined what had gone wrong on the project and how it should be put right. The council insists the figure of £37m constitutes a “worst-case scenario”.

The report assembled evidence of alleged design faults that will form the basis of the council’s second round of litigation, in which Hackney is claiming damages from architect Hodder Associates, engineer Whitbybird and contractor Gleeson.

The first court action, which concerned time and cost overruns, also involved Hodder Associates and quantity surveyor Davis Langdon. It was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Jules Pipe, mayor of Hackney, said the final amount that the council would have to pay would be much less than £37m because it had received money from the first round of litigation.

He said: “It’ll basically be a £22m leisure centre, which will cost somewhere under £30m.

“If the tests to the roof show that it does not need to be replaced, the £5.1m bill for repairs could also be considerably lower.”

Designs for the repairs will be drawn up by Bickerdike Allen and Arup. Contractors will be procured using a restricted process with no more than five firms putting in tenders.

Pipe also gave an insight into the catalogue of problems that Hackney confronted at the leisure centre. These included rusting hinges and doors to “wet” areas made from the wrong wood. The council did not know if these failings were because of design or specification problems.

He added that the same confusion surrounded the structural leaking at the centre, as the council did not know if this was due to a fault in the roof, condensation, or problems with the M&E.

Pipe said that the final straw came with the “catastrophic” failure of the pumping system, which caused a large volume of water to empty into the plant room.

In the council meeting, Labour councillor James Cannon called for more accountability in the way the council handled the project.

He said: “I believe it’s absolutely critical to have a named officer to carry the can. One lesson we should take is that the public has been very frustrated that nobody has stood up to say ‘I made a cock-up on this’.”

A council spokesperson said that a project manager with procurement and finance expertise would be appointed to oversee the repairs.