Dover Leisure Centre

Whitfield, Kent

Project Details

Dover District Council

Project Manager
Hadron Consulting

GT3 Architects

BAM Construction

£20 million

Contract Period
69 weeks

Procurement Type
Design & Build

Form of Contract
JCT 2017


Project Brief

BAM Construction built a new leisure centre which includes swimming pools, sports hall, squash courts and a gym. It provides facilities to Dover, Deal, Sandwich and the surrounding rural communities.

Dover District Council recognised that its existing leisure centre needed significant investment in order to bring it up to modern day standards. The new leisure centre has been designed to meet the latest Sport England facilities requirements, including access for people with a wide range of disabilities. The building represents a major investment in the health and well-being of the district that is fit for the 21st century that sets new standards in facilities, access, and sustainability.

The new leisure centre is accessible to all, providing easy access to the swimming pools, and wheelchair accessible gym and changing facilities.

Along with an 25m x 17m eight-lane county-standard competition pool and spectator seating for 250 people. A 15m x 8.5m learner pool features a moveable floor which allows the water depth to be varied depending on the swimming ability of the particular user group, which allows for greater flexibility of programming. There is a four-court sports hall, one of the largest fitness suites in East Kent with over 120 pieces of equipment, three multi-activity studios, spin studio, two glass backed squash courts with spectator seating, sauna and steam room.

It is the first swimming pool in Kent to feature poolpod platform lifts fitted in both pools, which allow people to enter the pool via a submersible and mobile pool platform. There are accessible changing facilities for pool users, including a full Changing Places facility with hoist, along with wheelchair accessible showers, toilets and lockers.
In addition, is a double height reception space, which is overlooked by the fitness suite, a café with views into key spaces and a double-storey height clip ‘n climb facility. Externally there are two outdoor floodlit five-a-side 3G pitches, and 250 parking spaces.

The Dover leisure project team (led by Dover District Council) developed into a strong and organised group working towards the common goal – the opening of the leisure centre – on time, to budget and the right quality.

“I would like to congratulate the team who have worked on the project and who have delivered this amazing facility in such a short space of time.”

“I enjoyed everything because I learned about the different jobs in construction and spent time with each role”.

Community Engagement

Social Value

  • We created £6.4 million of social value, 32% of the project value.
  • This included £6m worth of social value by supporting the growth of responsible regional businesses.

Training & Employment

  • 340 apprentice training weeks were delivered by 7 new and 10 existing apprentices.
  • 1 graduate worked on this project
  • 4 apprentices were able to complete their qualifications.
  • We created more than £250,000 worth of value in local skills and employment, e.g. through the employment of new local apprentices, supporting existing apprentices, providing 14 work placements for school and college students studying construction as well as upskilling the workforce.
  • 36 qualifications were achieved by those working on this project.
  • 127 local residents within a 30-mile radius of this project were employed ensuring support for the local economy, including 3 previously unemployed persons.
  • Our support for Community Wood Recycling enabled them to train and employ local people who have been unemployed long term.

Local Businesses

  • Even though this was a specialised build, we were able to spend over 50% of the project value in Kent thereby supporting local employment.

Charitable Support

  • We engaged with homeless charity Emmaus Dover to offer individuals site experience prior to applying for their Labourer CSCS cards to see what site work involved and assist with the paper-based questions of the basic CSCS card qualification.
  • We also assisted Emmaus with the review of their building stock in Dover and assessed the structure of their warehouse building which had large cracks. BAM helped with reports for Historic England applications to explore the building replacement and received tenders back from companies to provide the designed solution. The support given to Emmaus means they are able to support those who are homeless into accommodation and employment.


  • The local branch of Community Wood Recycling was engaged to transfer waste timber from site.


  • Lessons were delivered on site and in local schools and colleges supporting the curriculum in particular the Gatsby Benchmarks linking curriculum learning to careers.
  • We provided experiences of the workplace by arranging for a number of site visits.
  • The site team partnered with the University of Kent and hosted a taster day for Year 12 students considering studying construction at the university.

Key Challenges

Project Takeaways

Our Success

  • The SCF Project Charter signed by all parties to drive right behaviours.
  • Very proactive team approach to problem solving.
  • Workshops held to review lessons learned on previous leisure projects.
  • Early engagement of specialists ensured well-crafted solutions.
  • Fully transparent cost management built trust and confidence early on.
  • Early appointment of leisure operator to reduce risk of late design changes.

Value Added

  • BAM were instrumental in delivering £1.4m of added value benefits during the design development process. Redesign led to the omission of the basement and the relocation of the substation saved significant cost and time on the programme.
  • The Centre is the most energy efficient leisure centre in Kent with a Grade A energy certificate rating. The new building uses a gas combined heat and power (CHP) plant which produces electricity and hot water for the site. This form of heating is more efficient for the boilers, as the baseload requirements remain stable and it reduces the need for them to turn on and off frequently. BAM worked with the client to optimise the ventilation design, changing it to cross-ventilation. Combined with CO2 sensors and control units throughout the building, enables the management team to create a better and fresher indoor environment for the user. Advanced lighting controls were installed, with a control panel to remotely control lighting requirements. For example, turning specific lights on or off as required, and pre-set sport settings automatically light courts to the needs of individual sports, eliminating unnecessary lighting use.
  • The steel-framed building includes internal glulam beams and eight large, external glulam columns. A total of 116m3 of timber was used in this project, 100% from certified legal and sustainable sources. There were both air tightness and acoustic targets to meet, which proved a challenge for the team. For optimal acoustic performance, perforated roof decks were used, but these would negatively affect the building’s air tightness. By working closely with the architects and subcontractors, we were able to come up with a solution that satisfied both needs, with the centre achieving an air tightness level of 2.79m3/hr/m2 @ 50Pa. BAM uses local suppliers and businesses wherever possible, reducing transport impacts and making a positive contribution to the local economy. We spent over 50% of the project value in Kent. The team worked with a local waste centre. 11,000m3 of material was removed from site and delivered to the waste centre as capping material and the lorries would deliver recycled aggregates to site. To reduce disruption to the local communities, we used precast piles instead of traditional continuous fight auger piling. Traditional piling would have needed almost 80 lorry movements for the concrete deliveries and soil removal, but by using precast piles we were able to reduce this to just 16! Anticipating the needs of the building in the future can help reduce waste and resource use, and ultimately cost. A feasibility study was conducted to forward-plan what facilities might be required from the building. From this, it was decided to extend many of the building services to areas that did not need them now, but may need them at a later date, making any changes easier, and cheaper to implement.
  • There are 70 solar panels producing 27.22 MWh of electricity since opening and saving 69,567.15kg of CO2 emissions. The leisure centre is promoting sustainable travel, including charging points for electric vehicles, one months’ free bus travel, and facilities for cyclists, including a shelter and repair station.

KPI’s & Statistics

Contact: Darren Birch, Framework Manager