DG One leisure centre's 10 years of turmoil

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

image captionDG One has been shut for repairs since October 2014

Most of us have had a home construction nightmare or two - a project which has run late or over budget or both.

It is only human for mistakes to be made or things to go wrong.

But if you think you've had it bad, spare a thought for Dumfries and Galloway Council and its flagship leisure centre DG One.

It officially opened to the public 10 years ago - on 28 May 2008 - but since then almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.

Even an expert called in to look at its problems described the range and scale of the issues as "unique".

It has been completely shut for repairs for more than three-and-a-half years in the decade since it opened.

Prior to that, the closures of key facilities in the complex already ran into hundreds of days.

And it will not reopen to the public until the second half of next year - by which time its repairs bill will have well exceeded its original costs.

The project started with the very best of intentions - to replace the ageing swimming pool in Dumfries and provide a modern entertainment space too.

Although it opened behind schedule - put down to "snagging issues" - the facility initially looked like it would achieve its goals.

image captionThe centre was built to replace other ageing facilities in the town

However, problems emerged virtually straight away.

A section of the leisure pool was forced to close just two weeks after it opened after tiles were found to be coming loose.

It would turn out to be a recurring theme as repeated problems emerged in the building.

Eventually the council's patience ran out and it began a long-running legal battle with construction firm Kier Northern.

image copyrightDumfries and Galloway Council
image captionA string of faults emerged in the leisure centre forcing its complete closure

In the meantime, the centre was forced to close completely in October 2014 - for major repairs.

A temporary swimming pool was set up in the car park of the town's Ice Bowl and gym facilities installed in the Loreburn Hall - where they remain to this day.

Slowly but surely, the scale of the repairs required on the building began to emerge.

A compensation deal was eventually agreed with Kier in 2016 to cover the cost of remedial work - estimated at the time to be about £10m.

However, once that repairs operation began, previously undiscovered problems in the building started to be uncovered.

It emerged that the cost of bringing the leisure centre back into use would exceed the original building cost of £17m.

image captionIt is hoped the centre can reopen to the public in August next year

Earlier this year, an inquiry into the construction project and how it was handled delivered its findings.

He concluded the building had not been built to the appropriate standards and the responsibility for that lay with the original contractors Kier.

However, he added that there was also a responsibility for public bodies to ensure they had adequate resources to check that what was being built met standards required and complied with building regulations.

'Top-class facility'

Despite repeated calls to demolish the centre and cut its losses, the council administration has remained steadfast in its belief that the repairs programme should be completed to give the town a "top-class leisure facility".

It has also investigated the possibility of a criminal investigation into the construction - so far without avail.

The latest estimate is that DG One should be able to reopen to the public in August next year - almost five years after it closed for repairs.

By that stage, what should have been a flagship facility for the south west of Scotland will have been shut nearly as much as it has been open.

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