26 Aug 2009

Plans for a multi-million pound regional sports and leisure centre in Plymouth’s Central Park have been approved by the City Council’s Planning Committee.

At £46.5 million, the Life Centre scheme will see the city’s biggest ever investment in leisure facilities and underline Plymouth’s credentials as a premier venue for local, national and even international sporting events.

Designed to meet the city’s sporting needs well into the 21st century, the Life Centre will excite and inspire people of all ages and abilities and offer a varied programme of affordable sessions that will help increase levels of sport and physical activity and improve the overall health and fitness of local residents.

As the best leisure facility of its kind in the South West and one of the country’s leading centres of aquatic excellence, it will also attract top sportsmen and women such as Plymouth-born Tom Daley, newly crowned World Diving Champion, as well as nurture emerging young talent.

Facilities will include:
• A family leisure pool with flumes, ‘beach entry’ and bubble pool
• An innovative climbing zone with 15-metre wall, aerial assault course, bouldering and abseiling
• An eight-lane bowls centre which will be one of the best in the region
• A 12-court multi-use sports hall
• One of the largest fitness suites in the city, with 150 stations
• A 10-lane, 50-metre swimming pool with moveable floors and submersible 'booms' allowing flexible use
• One of the top four diving pools in the country, also offering a moveable floor so it can be used as a standard pool
• A dryside training facility for competitive divers
• A relaxing oasis with sauna, steam rooms and showers
• Multi-purpose areas for dance and martial arts, which can also be used for a crèche and soft play
• Youth gym, squash, training and studio spaces

The Life Centre will be accessible for all users, with dedicated disabled parking, level access throughout the building and disabled bowls buggies, as well as special provision for people with profound disabilities. It will be located in Pellow’s Field, in front of the Mayflower Centre (which will be demolished when the Life Centre opens).

There will be a café and foyer area that can be used by anyone visiting the park and a transport hub with attractive, comfortable facilities for bus passengers, pedestrians and cyclists, including toilets and a shower. The hub will serve park and ride passengers as well as visitors to the Life Centre and Central Park.

There will be around 350 new parking spaces, including bays for disabled motorists and a lay-by and parking area for coaches. New road junctions will be created on Outland Road (providing direct access to the park and ride area) and at Milehouse corner.

The Life Centre is crucial to wider plans for improving Central Park, acting as a key focal point which will attract more visitors to the park and will ensure the city remains competitive and well-placed to attract further investment in the future. The scheme will be funded mainly through capital receipts (money raised through the sale of Council assets) and Council borrowing, plus a £2.5 million contribution from the University of Plymouth.

Lead designers Archial developed the scheme with engineering consultants ARUP, in consultation with Council officers and more than 50 different stakeholder groups, including professional sports associations, Sport England, the University of Plymouth, UCP Marjon, local clubs, schools, local user groups, the Disabled Access Network and the Plymouth Sports Forum, as well as local public transport companies.

Their aim was to create a building which would be a focus of community pride and a major landmark on the route into the city centre from the North. It will act as a gateway to Central Park, providing a high quality public space which will play a key role in the park’s wider regeneration plans.

Key visual features of the scheme are the climbing zone and diving pool, both located at prominent focal points. The climbing zone will be visible when walking up the main avenue through the park from the South and from the new car park and the diving pool will be seen from Outland Road.

The dramatic, large-scale entrance faces onto Central Park and is designed to draw in people from all sides, with exciting views into a double-height glazed foyer and café – from where visitors will be able to see the leisure pool, climbing zone and fitness gym.

A simple palette of materials has been used, including stone-coloured render, timber columns, glass rainscreen cladding and colour-coated glazing, galvanized steel mesh panels and dark blue brickwork.

Council Leader Vivien Pengelly said: “The dream of a flagship leisure facility for the people of Plymouth has been a long time in the planning and we are so thrilled to see this now becoming a reality. Meeting the leisure needs of the whole community – from families who want to get more active to future sporting champions – has been at the heart of developing the Life Centre scheme. The plans have received overwhelming support from the public and we look forward to bringing their vision to life and building a centre we can all be proud of.”

Nigel Marsh, Partner at EC Harris said: "Planning permission is a key milestone in delivering the project and this outcome reflects the hard work of the whole project team to-date. The team are now focusing on the contractor appointment and starting construction works on-site.”

University of Plymouth Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Wendy Purcell welcomed the news. She said: “The University of Plymouth is delighted to see the Life Centre become a reality and is proud to play a part in realising this vision. This development will not only benefit the city’s health, but also its wealth, enhancing Plymouth’s attraction to prospective students and high-calibre staff who make a significant contribution to the local economy.

Planning consent for the Life Centre is subject to a number of conditions as detailed in the planning report, which is available on the Council’s website at

A contractor is expected to be appointed in November work will begin on site at the end of the year. The Life Centre is scheduled to open in September 2011.


Notes for editors:
New images showing updated designs are available - contact Tammy Baines on 01752 304913.

For further information please contact:
Tammy Baines, Corporate Communications Officer
Tel: 01752 304913
Fax: 01752 304933

Sign up to the ASA School Swimming Charter. We're taking swimming seriously, are you? Baby Swimming Lesson Guidelines - Parents Purchase today IoS Training For Level 2 Teaching Qualifications