Asbestos, roof leaks and cracks in the floor – the story of Aireborough Pool’s 69-week late renovation

A litany of structural problems led to the renovation of a north Leeds swimming pool being well over a year late, a meeting has heard.
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The Aireborough Leisure Centre swimming pool closed for refurbishment on May 29, 2017, with work set to be done on the swimming pool and changing rooms, as well as the creation of a new library and entrance area.

Work started on site in October 2017 and was due to complete on 15th May 2018. However, completion was delayed by almost 16 months. The swimming pool did not re-open to the public on September 28 last year.

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A report went before Leeds City Council’s Health Scrutiny Board this week, which outlined issues such as the discovery of asbestos, roof leaks and cracks in floors among the reasons why work on the site was finished so far behind schedule.

The pool during renovation work in 2018. (Pic: Google)The pool during renovation work in 2018. (Pic: Google)
The pool during renovation work in 2018. (Pic: Google)

The report also noted that the expected reopening was altered a number of times, meaning it was difficult to give an expected opening date to the public.

Coun Graham Latty (Con), who had originally called for the inquiry to take place, told the meeting: “It’s not just a leisure centre – it means a huge amount to the people of northwest Leeds – it is a northwest Leeds centre and is well loved.

“What did we learn? We learned that communication is one of the most important parts of this sort of job – it didn’t happen.

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“When asked why did we not look for more asbestos when we found it? We would have had to shut the place, but we shut the place anyway.

“We spent a huge amount of money, but ended up with a good leisure centre. I think it’s a cracking centre now with a library and a cafe.

“But we shouldn’t have to make excuses to residents. We should have been up front at the beginning and we should have handled it better.”

Among a number of difficulties listed by the report was a section on asbestos removal works. It claims initial surveys on asbestos in the building were undertaken while the pool was operational, but further discoveries of the substance were made once the pool was closed to the public.

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It said that all work around asbestos surveying and removal added “24 weeks” to the programme of work.

Coun Paul Truswell (Lab) said: “The project was subject to very lengthy delays, but several components were foreseeable. Even if we identified the presence of asbestos, it would have injected a sizeable delay from the start.

“Six months does seem like an extraordinary length of time to remove asbestosfrom a building, no matter how large it is.

“The overall state of the property also concerned me.”

Other problems that were discovered during the works were roof leaks (adding an extra 22 weeks of work), problems with pool tiling (five weeks) and cracks in the concrete floor (13 weeks).

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The council, during the closure of the pool, is thought to have missed out on £2,500 per day in revenue.

The report concluded: “The working group endorsed and welcomed the above key learning points arising from the ‘Lessons Learned’ review, acknowledging that these primarily highlight the importance of scoping the proposals at the early stage, having sufficient provision to manage potential risks in a seamless way and having the governance arrangements in place from the outset.

“Whilst it is the case that the inherent defects identified in the building would still have needed to be addressed, the project would have been better placed to resolve them.”