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Lancashire leisure centre survives CABE mauling to win green light

A controversial £9 million leisure centre in Lancashire has won the green light despite a withering attack by CABE.

The project by Saunders Boston involves demolishing an existing 70-year old leisure centre in a conservation site in Darwen, and replacing it with a modern facility housing a 25m, eight-lane pool, learner and hydrotherapy pools, gym, changing rooms and spectator seating for 300 people.

But CABE wants the scheme torpedoed because not enough features from the original building are being retained.

The quango's design review panel stated earlier this month: 'We cannot offer our support for the current design proposals for the reasons set out below; we believe a fundamental reconsideration of the project should be undertaken in order to achieve a scheme of appropriate quality for the town.'

The panel continued: 'It is unfortunate that the potential to create an integrated health and leisure facility on this site has been compromised by the lack of an overall masterplan prior to the construction of the building.

'This is a significant site, in a town with considerable assets such as the old market hall and its surroundings; in such a context we are surprised to find that limited consideration has been given to developing a brief that takes advantage of this situation.'

Blackburn with Darwen Council insists the new facility - due to open in 2008 - will be of a 'high standard' and will 'respect and enhance' the character and appearance of the conservation area.

Councillor Andy Kay, executive member for regeneration, said: 'The new leisure centre will complement the multi-million pound development which is already planned for Darwen town centre.

'It will be something that Darwen and the whole of the borough can be proud of.'

by Clive Walker

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