Designs for Woodbridge’s Deben Pool were met with disparagement when put forward as the first part of Suffolk Coastal’s programme to redevelop three leisure centres.
Alternative exterior designs went online the day a committee gathered to discuss plans. But councillors favoured the original drawings – called “immensely crude” by The Independent’s architecture critic, Jay Merrick.
Woodbridge Town Council also rued the “missed opportunity” to replace the exterior with something more fitting, despite welcoming the £3m investment proposed by Suffolk Coastal District Council and its leisure partners.
Planning officers had informed the committee of objections to the flat roof, colour and materials – but said the contrast to nearby buildings was not “necessarily unacceptable”. However, they did recommend the use of either a red or white brick in place of concrete blocks with polished bands, and the replacement of a metal ‘feature band’ with rendering.
Councillors pushed through proposals, but left the final agreement to the project team and planning office, which found the colour scheme acceptable.
Charles Curry-Hyde, who collaborated with Paul Weston on the nearby Whisstocks boatyard regeneration, said the late revisions still failed to address doubts – amounting to little more than a “different colour palette”.
He maintained the design lacked civic presence, surmising the alterations had taken “no more than an hour or two”.
TJ Haworth-Culf, Suffolk Coastal’s head of leisure, said: “The plans for Deben Leisure were approved at planning committee subject to the agreement of the final design between the project team and planning management.
“We have listened to comments from the public and planning colleagues regarding the issue of the frontage to the leisure centre on the original design, to which there were two strong, contrasting views on the colour scheme. Following Thursday’s committee meeting, planning were leading to favour the original proposals, which are in keeping with the colour scheme for buildings surrounding the site.
“We’re investing in our leisure centres to improve our offer to local people and to encourage more people to become fit and active. Therefore, we feel that the design of the building needs to be contemporary and colourful to attract users to the leisure centre and to stand out in the community.
“The building has been designed to be modern as well as being practical and deliverable within our restrictions for funding and practical requirements for the leisure centre. The roof, for example, has been designed to be flat to incorporate air conditioning units for the building.
“Ultimately, we want our leisure centres to be refurbished to todays and future standards that the whole community can enjoy, that come at no additional cost to the tax payer and these designs appropriately reflect this.
Proposals also include separate male and female changing rooms for gym users on the first floor, with a communal ‘village changing’ area on the ground floor, comprising a shared locker area, cubicle showers leading to the pool, family cubicles, parent and child cubicles and individual cubicles – each with a lockable door.
An individual disabled changing area is included, along with two group changing rooms, primarily for schools and junior clubs.