Keynsham’s new leisure centre will be at the Riverside as part of a visionary redevelopment for the area although the exact location and facilities available have yet to be decided.
At the December meeting of the B&NES Council Cabinet, members unanimously adopted the latest draft of the Placemaking Plan in which the leisure centre is identified as part of a mixed development of the Riverside and adjacent Fire Station site. The remainder of the area will be split between office and residential use.
The Placemaking Plan effectively puts the flesh on the bones of the Core Strategy which the council adopted last year, by identifying precise locations for the aims set out in it. A process of consultation has been ongoing, involving the public and town and parish councils throughout B&NES and in September, Keynsham residents were invited to give their views on a range of issues involving the town. The location for the new leisure centre proved to be the most controversial of these, particularly when it became apparent that the replacement would have no sports hall, squash courts or spectator seating for the swimming pool.
The council originally responded that consultation with user groups to determine exactly what would be included would take place once a final decision on the site was agreed. Then, on the day following this month’s cabinet meeting, B&NES Council Leader Tim Warren announced on local radio that the new facility would at least have spectator seating and a dry sports hall.
The draft Placemaking Plan acknowledges that further consultation will have to take place regarding the facilities and there are still other significant issues to be resolved, particularly ownership of the land. While B&NES owns the freehold of the Riverside, everything other than the current leisure centre is on a long term lease to an asset management company. As we reported last month, that company had applied to the council for a prior determination on whether it could transform the office space into apartments using permitted development rights instead of submitting a formal planning application. That request has now been withdrawn after it emerged the civic centre parking spaces belonging to the office building revert to public use in the evenings and weekends so could not be used for residents of the apartments.
The fire station has been empty since last month with cover currently being provided from Brislington until the new fire station opens at Hicks Gate next year. Initially, the fire station site had been earmarked for an office development to house the Avon & Somerset Fire & Rescue HQ and while no decision has been confirmed publicly, The Week In learnt earlier this year that an alternative site was being considered at Emersons Green. The Temple Street site also lies within Keynsham Conservation area which will also impact on the ultimate redevelopment.
High quality design
However, the wording of the proposed new policy KE2b in the draft document certainly suggests something far more imaginative than the current monolith. The vision is for a “high quality design which enhances the Conservation Area” together with varied roof heights, a high quality public realm along Temple Street and “suitable additional parking to mitigate the transport impact of the development.”
The new development will be expected to incorporate infrastructure for the council’s district heating priority plan and will be expected to connect to the system when it becomes available. The pedestrian link between Riverside and the park will also be enhanced through new footpaths and greenery.