Houghton Regis Community and Leisure Centre frequently asked questions
Construction is now underway which will include the demolition of the former Houghton Regis Academy buildings.
The new centre is expected to open in Autumn 2024.
How is the new community and leisure centre being funded?
We secured nearly £20 million of funding from the government's Levelling Up Fund (LUF) for this new development at the end of October 2021. In addition, Section 106 funding secured for leisure centre provision in Houghton Regis is supporting the project, together with estate regeneration funding and our capital funding.
What did the LUF bid include?
Find out more about the LUF bid, including documents. These include the information submitted to the government in support of our application, submitted in June 2021.
View or download the report to our Executive in December 2021 (PDF) regarding the LUF bid.
What will happen to the former Houghton Regis Academy buildings on the site?
Houghton Regis Academy closed on 31 August 2022. The academy buildings on the site will be demolished as part of the initial construction stage for the new community and leisure centre development.
How will the proposals impact the existing leisure facilities?
The existing Houghton Regis Leisure Centre will remain open and operational until the new community and leisure centre is open and ready for use. At that point all activities will transfer from the existing centre to the new community and leisure centre, and the existing leisure centre will be decommissioned. We will consider the future use of the existing leisure centre and the public will be engaged in that process.
What will happen to the Houghton Regis Academy playing fields, which are outside of the development proposals to the north?
The Houghton Regis Academy pitches will be replaced by new outdoor sports pitches and facilities within the new Houstone School which is located nearby on the Kingsland Campus. The planning permission for the school included the requirement for a Community Use Agreement, which will secure community use of the new school sports facilities.
How has the mix of facilities for the new community and leisure centre been determined?
In 2021, we adopted our new Leisure Facilities Strategy to provide the assessment of leisure facility needs and guide its decisions on new provision across Central Bedfordshire.
The evidence and assessment considered the current facility and the needs of Houghton Regis as it is planned to grow. The results showed that a new centre should be provided for Houghton Regis, to replace the existing one due to its age and capacity, to provide a range of high quality, flexible sporting facilities and activities, and meet the needs of the current and new residents.
The strategy work included a detailed assessment of the demand for swimming pool and sports hall facilities, as well as other facilities which are usually provided in public leisure centres.
Will there be space for swimming lessons, lane swims and classes in the new centre?
Yes, the new facilities will provide maximum flexibility of pool space to cater for a range of activities.
The Leisure Facilities Strategy work included an assessment of the demand for swimming pool provision which demonstrated that more space was needed for all ages and activities. That is why the community and leisure centre will include an 8-lane 25-metre main pool, a learner pool and confidence water for very young children to dip their toes in the water. The size and flexibility of the water space will mean more people and groups will be able to access the pools at convenient times.
Why is there no sports hall included?
Our Leisure Facilities Strategy evidence and assessment showed that a new leisure centre should be provided for Houghton Regis to replace the existing one due to its age and capacity, and in particular to address the size of the swimming pool. The assessment considered the demand for sports hall facilities and the activities they support. The results showed that 1 sports hall (4 badminton court size) was needed to meet the current and future needs.
The sports hall to be provided in the new Houstone School will meet the strategy recommendation for a 4-court sports hall, and community access to the school sports hall will be secured in a Community Use Agreement.
What does a Community Use Agreement include and when will the agreement for Houstone School be completed?
A Community Use Agreement is a legal agreement made between the applicant (usually the school constructing new facilities) and our planning team to secure community access to new sports facilities.
It will detail the following:
- hours of community access which are expected to be from 5:30pm weekdays, all day weekends and in school holidays, except for exam periods
- management arrangements
- list of facilities available for the community to use e.g. pitches, toilets, parking etc.
Confirmation of how the community can book the facilities will be developed in more detail in a separate, but related agreement.
The planning permission for the new Houstone School requires the agreement to be signed before the school opens. We're working with the school to progress the agreement.
How will the community access the school sports hall?
To ensure that the community has access to the Houstone School sports hall, the school’s planning permission includes a condition that a Community Use Agreement (CUA) be signed to secure ongoing access to the sports hall and the other new sports facilities. This will detail the arrangements for community use which is anticipated to be from 5:30pm weekdays, available all day weekends and school holidays, except for school exam periods.
We’re working with the Houstone School and the Advantage Schools Trust to ensure that access and management arrangements offer a seamless route for residents to book facilities.
The Houstone School sports hall has been designed to be a standalone building with separate access from the other school buildings, this will ensure that the community will be able to access the sports hall without requiring access to the rest of the school property.
How far will the sports hall be from the leisure centre?
The sports hall to be provided in the new Houstone School will be located approximately 300 metres from the main entrance to the proposed leisure centre facility. Users of the sports hall will be able to use the parking spaces, including disabled spaces, within the school site.
Both facilities have their own car park so visitors can use whichever is more convenient.
What sports facilities will be available at Houstone School?
The new school will be providing a range of sports facilities which will be available to the public out of school hours.
Indoor facilities: the sport hall is part of the sports block which is a separate building with separate access. It will comprise a sports hall, toilets, accessible toilets and changing facilities.
Outdoor facilities: all weather pitch, hard courts, grass sports pitches and grass running track.
Will my monthly subscription increase once the new facility is use?
In terms of membership fees, it's our intention to offer competitive prices to ensure the new leisure centre remains accessible to as many people as possible within Houghton Regis.
How long will I not have access to a leisure centre?
The local community will be able to access leisure facilities throughout the period of this project, as the existing leisure centre will remain open and operational until construction is completed on the new centre, at which point activities will be transferred to the new centre. There will be no impact upon the accessibility of leisure provision in Houghton Regis beyond a very short period of time to transfer operations from the old centre to the new one.
Does this mean ongoing works on the existing leisure centre will be stopped?
In the period until the new leisure centre comes into operation we’re committed to ensuring the existing facilities remain operational and maintained to a high standard. All regular maintenance checks will continue. We are committed to managing any issues that arise and maintaining operational facilities.
Will there be disabled facilities and changing places available for all?
Yes, all changing areas offer flexibility for all users. Sport England guidance requires a provision of a combined accessible toilet and shower rooms for the use of disabled users – these are provided on both floors. Changing areas are designed for wheelchair use to ensure suitable access. Two dedicated ‘Changing Places’ rooms will be provided: one in the wet change area, and one in the dry side. These facilities support users with an accessible changing environment. Both areas provide a generous change area in compliance with Changing Places guidance for individual disabled users or those with severe disabilities who require help from a carer.
Do the approved plans include a pool hoist to ensure accessibility to the pool for all?
Both pools will include an 'Oxford Dipper' and a 'pool pod'; pieces of equipment which provide access for people with a variety of disabilities. The main pool will also have easy access stairs with handrails. We are also looking at providing a hoist from the Changing Places into the learner pool.
How is the building designed to be sustainable?
An integrated approach to the design has been undertaken to improve the health & safety, design quality, sustainability and ‘buildability’ to reduce whole-life costs.
- heat pumps: incorporating air source heat pumps to provide 80% of the required building heating requirements (the remaining 20% will be provided by a back-up gas boiler in very cold periods where heat pumps are ineffective)
- energy conservation: through reduced carbon technologies and high-efficiency plant to reduce energy demand, with heat recovery systems to ensure that heat generated is not wasted directly to outside, but recovered and utilised as appropriate
- water conservation: through water saving devices on sanitary ware
- materials selection: ensure that the Green Guide is consulted for responsive sourcing and embodied carbon
- pollution emissions: mechanical and electrical plant to be selected with recognised and acceptable gas emission
Parking and access
How many parking spaces will the new community and leisure centre have?
The new centre will have an adjacent car park which is intended to provide 238 parking spaces, plus motorcycle and cycle parking. The parking bays will include accessible bays close to the main entrance to the facility and electric vehicle charging points.
Will the new community and leisure centre have an impact on traffic locally?
The new centre will be a replacement for the existing facility, also located on the Kingsland Campus, which will be taken out of use once the new centre is open. As such, there shouldn't be a significant increase in the number of vehicles accessing the Kingsland Campus site as a large number of users will already be accessing the campus to use the current facilities.
We've completed a full transport assessment, including survey work on the local highway network (including junctions with Parkside Drive and Sundon Road) which was published as part of the planning application.
What are we doing to protect the natural environment?
Existing vegetation such as hedgerows and trees will be retained as far as possible. The quantity of existing vegetation that will be removed is very limited and the majority of existing hedgerows will be retained. The retained vegetation will be enhanced with additional planting, which will improve the connectivity and biodiversity value across the site.
A management plan will also be produced for the site. This sets out the maintenance and management requirements to establish and safeguard the natural environment on the site.
Will we be retaining the existing wildlife buffer to the north of the development site?
This buffer is outside of the redline for the site and is not affected by these proposed works.
Who will manage the new landscape areas?
The new centre and the surrounding landscape, play areas and the trim trail will be managed by us, through our leisure management contractor.
What links will there be with the wider community of Houghton Regis?
We're exploring options to enhance the range of activities available for older people through links with the new All Saints View. We'll look to develop opportunities at All Saints View's meeting spaces, which could provide both meeting and activity opportunities for residents.
How long will building work take?
The construction period is likely to be approximately 20 months on-site.
Will the construction works be noisy?
Some of the construction operations (i.e. demolition of the existing school) will be noisy, but the building contractor will operate in accordance with the Good Contractor Code of Conduct which includes restrictions of working hours (8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday; 8am to 1pm, Saturday, if required). The site will be registered with the Considerate Constructors Scheme, and regular checks will be undertaken by that body. The contractor will also undertake letter drops to nearby houses notifying them in advance of significant noisy works and large deliveries.
What hours will we be working?
8am to 6pm, Monday to Friday and occasionally 8am to 1pm, Saturday (if required).
Will the construction affect access to the current leisure centre?
No, we are not expecting increased traffic movements at the current leisure centre as the construction process is taking place on the opposite side to the campus. Deliveries for the new centre will be coordinated through a construction management plan to minimise impacts on surrounding roads at peak times.