Over the past few years, Wokingham Borough Council has been looking carefully at library, sports and leisure facilities needed across the Borough. In 2016 it consulted with local residents on its library offer and a new leisure strategy for the area.
Work has already begun to turn these strategies into reality with self-service kiosks having been installed at our libraries along with extended opening hours, improvements at Woodley Library and an even bigger programme of local events and workshops. Proposals are also in place to rebuild Bulmershe Leisure Centre in Woodley, to refurbish and reopen Ryeish Green Sports Hall as a new community facility and to open a new leisure centre in Arborfield for summer 2018.
And today (27 April), the council has unveiled its exciting plans to create a brand new leisure, culture and community hub at the Carnival site in Wokingham.
These ambitious plans form Phase 2 of the Carnival project and will see a brand new state-of-the-art facility on the site of the existing leisure centre, bowling alley and car park (subject to planning permission).
Bernie Pich, head of regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, said: "With work nearing completion on the new car park and bowling alley unit, we started to look in more detail at the second phase of the proposals which, subject to planning consent, we expect to start on site in mid to late 2019 and open in early 2021. We’ve been pulling together information from a range of sources including our previous regeneration consultations, the planning process and discussions with leisure operators and other authorities to get an idea of what a great facility could offer."
Proposals for Carnival Phase 2 include:
- A range of leisure facilities
- a six-lane swimming pool, improved teaching pool and spa area with sauna and steam facilities
- a large main gym and separate specialist gym for those with long term conditions
- a four-court indoor sports hall
- new studios for classes and events
- new changing areas, including individual showers and changing cubicles
- Improved library space and cultural, community areas
- Increased amount of useable floorspace than in existing library site
- Flexible layout of spaces to allow for more activities
- Meeting rooms and spaces for library events, cultural events, workshops and community hire
- New exhibition spaces in library and café
- Opportunity for larger events in shared studios or new sports hall which can easily convert into a 400-seat performance, lecture and events space
- Other elements
- A new café with exhibition space and viewing area into new pools
- Public toilets and accessible changing places facility
- New commercial units suitable for leisure-led businesses like large soft play facility, gallery or restaurants
- Around 55 new one and two bed apartments, overlooking the public spaces to help create safe and vibrant areas
- New signalised pedestrian crossing at Wellington Road to link with town centre and Elms Field
Darrell Gale, Wokingham Borough Council’s public health consultant, said: "When we consulted on the leisure strategy, we had lots of great feedback from residents on the range of facilities they want to see in local leisure centres across the whole Wokingham Borough. We’re continuing to move forward and rolling out improvements, including our latest proposals for the Carnival Pool site.
"When we last shared ideas for Carnival Phase 2, our preference was to extend the centre and refurbish the pool. However, following more comprehensive surveys, we found the work required is far more extensive than first thought. To fix what needs replacing would cost a significant amount of money and would also require the pool to shut for at least a year.
"We looked again at our options and the rebuild approach is preferable. Not only does it give a much better and more efficient layout of the site, it gives us flexibility to look at co-locating other services into the facility, like a new library, and the ability to offer even more opportunities for culture and community within the building. Cost wise it also makes sense as the difference between rebuild and refurbish costs is marginal, and we can create a much more attractive and sustainable building with lower ongoing operating and management costs."
Whilst a detailed planning application for Carnival Phase 2 is expected to be submitted later this summer, the council is sharing the designs now so people have the opportunity to give their thoughts and ideas before it is submitted.
Mark Redfearn, Wokingham Borough Council’s libraries and community development service manager, said: "Initially, we will be using the feedback from this round of engagement along with the useful comments we received on the library offer to help shape the Carnival Phase 2 planning application. But this discussion with our residents doesn’t stop there, and we will be continuing this dialogue in the coming weeks and months as we carry out more detailed work on specific internal layout of the library and public spaces. We also would like to know what events people would like to see offered in the new centre or how we could improve the services that people are already using as we get closer to the new facility opening in 2021."
People will have the opportunity to view the latest proposals at the Civic Offices at Shute End, Wokingham Library and Carnival Pool Leisure Centre during normal opening hours. A downloadable copy of the engagement leaflet will also be available on the regeneration website.
In addition to the exhibition boards, the council will also be running two drop-in session where people can come along, meet the team and ask questions about the scheme, on:
- Monday 8 May, 4pm to 7pm at Wokingham Library
- Tuesday 16 May, 4pm to 7pm at Carnival Pool Leisure Centre
People have until Sunday May 21 to view the proposals and submit their comments to the town centre regeneration team by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to Town Centre Regeneration, Wokingham Borough Council, Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham, RG40 1BN
People can keep up to date with progress on site and the latest programme dates on the regeneration website.