South Scotland

How the Dumfries DG One leisure centre dream crumbled

DG One
Image caption DG One shut in 2014 for repairs and has yet to reopen

There was perceptible pride during the tour around the DG One leisure centre ahead of its public opening in 2008.

The building offered Dumfries a significant upgrade on the town's previous ageing facilities.

Anybody who remembered the old swimming pool on the Greensands which it replaced could not have failed to have been impressed.

Gym facilities, catering and a large multi-use entertainment space provided something the area desperately needed.

But there were warning signs of the issues to come even during the construction process.

There were repeated delays to the opening schedule as it slipped months behind its original timetable.

And yet, to the untrained eye, the £17m building looked impressive when it finally opened in 2008.

However, that hid a chronicle of underlying issues which quickly started to emerge as soon as the centre came into use.

Image caption The centre suffered a string of problems almost as soon as it opened

Just two weeks after it opened to the public, a leisure pool was forced to close due to tiles coming loose.

Within 18 months a training pool had to shut to allow its moving floor and tiles to be replaced.

It left the centre looking more like a building site at times than a showpiece facility.

By 2011, surveyors were called in to try to establish the cause of persistent faults experienced during its short life.

A year later it emerged that at least one of its main facilities had been shut on more than 200 days since it opened.

That translated to about one day a week when it could not offer the full provision of services.

Finally, in 2013, Dumfries and Galloway Council started court proceedings against Kier Northern who built DG One.

Image caption The council has asked for a final figure on the total repair cost within eight weeks

A year later, the centre was shut completely and temporary gym and swimming facilities installed at other sites in the town.

However, repairs work could not get under way until the legal wrangle with constructors had been resolved.

It looked like that had finally reached a solution in 2016 when a settlement to allow remedial work to begin was agreed.

A £10m price tag was attached and it initially appeared that the work was progressing well.

But further issues emerged, which it has now been estimated will cost at least an extra £3m to address.

That has prompted outrage at the council at the scale of the problems with what was meant to be a boon for the town.

Its leader has even contacted police and the Health and Safety Executive to see if a criminal investigation might be required.

In the meantime, the local authority has taken the difficult decision to continue with the repairs programme despite the rising costs.

It decided demolition and replacement, or simply knocking the building down, were not credible options.

Image caption It will be some time before DG One is able to reopen to the public

Instead, it wants a final figure delivered within two months on what it will actually cost to bring the centre back into use.

In the meantime, £500,000 has been drawn down to allow the repair work to continue.

An "independent, comprehensive and unfettered" inquiry into how the situation reached this stage has also been ordered.

The council has pointed the finger at constructors Kier, but it may have a few questions to answer itself during the process.

Indeed, in its hopes to re-establish public faith in its major building projects it has accepted that it will have to be the case.

In the meantime, the scaffolding stays around the DG One centre as work continues to try to bring it back into use.

And everyone passing by can only shake their head and wonder at how everything could go so badly wrong?

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