Essex eco-friendly leisure centre officially opened by royalty

by Rob

The site of an outdated Essex leisure centre, built in the early 1960s, has been redeveloped, creating a new state-of-the-art leisure complex.

The widely anticipated Riverside Leisure Centre, in Chelmsford, Essex, was officially opened today (Friday, 14 June) by His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent. The cutting-edge and energy efficient complex was built to provide the city’s residents with access to crucial, fit-for-purpose facilities – including a 25m, 10-lane swimming pool with a moveable floor– to help and encourage them to lead healthy, active lives.

Leading independent property, construction and infrastructure consultancy Pick Everard delivered all the design and costing services for the multi-million-pound flagship scheme, which has been awarded a ‘very good’ BREEAM sustainability rating.

Keith Prendergast, director at Pick Everard, who designed the building, said: “It is fantastic to see the Riverside Leisure Centre complete and being used by the community. The old leisure centre was nearing 60 years old and was outdated in terms of its design, facilities and energy efficiency. The council identified the complex as being unable to meet the future demand of the city.

“With its BREEAM rating, low carbon technology and airtight detailing, the new, modern leisure centre leaves minimal impact on our environment. We are very proud to have designed a building that provides an impressive gateway to the city centre and delivers a greener legacy for the entire community to enjoy for years to come.”

Along with the competition-standard swimming pool – facilities include: a teaching pool; a  toddler-friendly sensory splash zone and fun pool complete with flume; a 130-station gym; health and fitness studios; an Ofsted-registered creche; soft play facility; fully accessible changing rooms; a spacious reception foyer; and an airy cafe with terrace overlooking the River Chelmer. There is also storage space for around 80 bicycles in a bid to encourage greener methods of travel.

Eco-friendly blue glass and blue and white bubble cladding adorn the exterior of the swimming pool area, to reflect the use within.

Keith said: “The project mission is to provide the best quality offer for the most people in the community, following the principles of a public facing, inclusive design, that contributes to the wider riverside town centre redevelopment.

“Riverside Leisure Centre has been carefully designed to provide access to the widest possible cross-section of the community, improving access for elderly people and people with disabilities, in order to ensure an accessible attraction that is suitable for all.

“The customer journey starts outside the building with its distinctive exterior design. When you go inside the leisure centre, there is clear wayfinding signage to ensure ease of navigation and a clear customer journey throughout the facility.”

Riverside Leisure Centre’s BREEAM ‘very good’ rating puts the leisure complex in the top 25 per cent of new non-domestic buildings in the UK for environmentally friendly design, while also contributing to significantly reducing running costs.

Smart sensors have been incorporated, which monitor the weather outside and control the heating accordingly. LED bulbs, which turn off automatically when rooms are not in use, are also controlled by sensors and illuminate the complex depending on the daylight hours.

The centre uses a combined heat and power unit to generate a proportion of its own electricity. As it does this, it produces heat, which is used to supply hot water for the pool, showers, taps and heating systems. If extra heat is required, modulating ‘smart’ gas boilers are used to meet demand. Underfloor heating throughout the ground floor provides efficient background heating and helps warm and dry the floors in the changing areas.

Keith said: “High environmental performance and life cycle costs have been a central element of the detailed design. It was important for the council to provide high-quality facilities that would benefit the Chelmsford community for decades to come, while also reducing running costs and minimising its environmental impact.

“We understand the importance of creating an impressive gateway to a city centre, one that delivers real social value, that residents can be proud of and which reflects the city’s opportunities and vision.

“The council has remained true to its original vision and enabled us to deliver an inspiring facility for its residents. If you compare the 3D model we created at the start to the finished product, they’re virtually identical.”

Riverside Leisure Centre is Chelmsford City Council’s biggest ever single investment in a project for the community. The scheme is part of the redevelopment of the riverside area by the council to create a gateway to the city centre.

Chelmsford City Council’s chief executive, Nick Eveleigh, said the ambitious scale and design of the new centre will allow it to serve the whole community for decades to come. He added: “The people of Chelmsford have been foremost in our minds as we have planned and delivered this project; a cutting-edge centre to do the city justice and have a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of everyone who lives here. Everything we have designed, from the building to individual sessions, has had this principle in mind. We’re hoping that the new centre will give people more opportunities than ever to both enjoy the city centre and lead active lives.”

The council has adopted the government’s ‘soft landings’ programme. Now the complex has opened to the public, Pick Everard and main contractor Kier will work with the council for the next two years, making sure the leisure centre is not using too much energy and fine-tuning its systems so they are energy-efficient during summer and winter.

Pick Everard employs more than 500 staff across its 13 UK offices, providing a range of project, cost and design consultancy services. For more information, please visit

To find out more about the Riverside Leisure Centre, please visit

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