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Work to build a huge new leisure centre on the South Coast's officially starting today.
The complex in Dorchester will have a new 25-metre swimming pool, a sports hall and a fitness suite - the pool should be finished in 2012 and the sports hall a year later.
The complex will be built on the Thomas Hardye site in Coburg Road and the facilities will be open to the public at all times.
The contract for the work has been awarded to Southampton-based Leadbitter. They have an extensive track record of building swimming pools and have good experience of working on school sites, using local labour and working closely with local residents to minimise disruption caused by the building project.
The work will be phased so that the school and public can continue to use the existing sports centre while work is completed.
The first part of the project will be to improve the car parks to the east and west of the building site, so that when building works start, there is no significant loss of car parking spaces for leisure centre customers, the school and neighbouring rugby club.
West Dorset District Council, Dorset County Council and The Thomas Hardye School have been working closely together on the plans for the new leisure facilities.
West Dorset District Council Leader Robert Gould said: “We are delighted to have reached this point in the project and that work will be starting on the site very soon.
“We have formed effective partnerships with Dorset County Council and The Thomas Hardye School and we are looking forward to giving West Dorset residents a fantastic leisure complex to enjoy.”
Chairman of the Swimming Pool project board and Headteacher of Thomas Hardye School Dr Iain Melvin said: "Planning for these facilities began in 2002 and it is satisfying to see a final resolution. These new buildings will provide exceptional opportunities for young and old and The Thomas Hardye School has been pleased to be involved in developing such wonderful resources for Dorchester."
Dorset County Council Cabinet Member for Children & Young People Toni Coombs, said: “This new centre will provide better access to leisure for the youngsters attending local schools as well as the wider community and demonstrates how much can be achieved by public bodies working together in partnership.”
Earlier this year, the district council also invested in a new surface for the artificial turf pitch at Thomas Hardye Leisure Centre. The new state-of-the-art surface is filled with rubber crumbs, providing a first class playing surface.
New nets have also been installed, dividing the pitch into three, which means more booking opportunities for local players.
Dorchester Town Football Club will be using the pitch as the main training facility for the first team.