The final phase of the much anticipated £6m sports hall development at Lancaster University has been completed.
Conlon Construction was appointed to deliver the 1,347 sq m hall, which is an extension of the university’s existing sports facilities. The contractor has now become the first in the region to complete Lancaster City Council’s Employment and Skills Plan (ESP), a programme designed to ensure that local people are given education and training opportunities that enable them to gain meaningful employment.
The new sports hall, which has been created to encourage more people from within the university and the local community to engage in sports activities, homes a variety of full-size sports courts, including a basketball court and eight badminton courts, as well as retractable seating for more than 500 people.
Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andy Schofield, said: “The project has been a great success despite the set-backs brought about by Covid-19.
“The building will be a real asset to the University, providing a great setting for sport but also, considering the current pressure on teaching space due to the pandemic, much-needed space to support teaching and exams.”
The University’s Director of Estates, Facilities and Commercial Services, Andrew Burgess, said: “The fantastic facilities here are always in high demand from students, staff and the local community too.
“The additional Sports Hall will give us twice as much capacity. All the staff here are really excited to get the Sports Centre opened as soon as possible and can’t wait for people to see the new courts.”
Upon its appointment to the development in summer 2019, Conlon Construction committed to the City Council’s ESP, promising to provide opportunities for young people on any future development more than 1,000 sq m or 20 houses and to prioritise Lancaster residents for training and apprenticeships.
To satisfy its pledge, Conlon Construction partnered with key suppliers including Lancaster University’s estates department, Lancaster City Council’s planning department, Construction Skills Training and Employment Partnership (CSTEP), and Lancaster & Morecambe College. It went on to exceed a series of targets relating to job creation, qualifications, on-site training weeks and work placements, which were achieved throughout the development of the sports hall.
In total, Conlon Construction delivered 10 weeks of work placements to a total of six students from Lancaster & Morecambe College and Newman College in Preston. Apprentices, trainees and new entrants completed 257 weeks of on-site training, while 16 qualifications and certifications – including an NVQ Level 5, NVQ Level 3 Considerate Constructor Certificate, RICS and BREEAM Site Sustainability – were achieved. Finally, two full time roles with Conlon Construction were created via the National Skills Academy for Construction.
Neil Conlon, director for Conlon Construction, said: “The completion of the Lancaster University sports hall is a demonstration of what a true, collective effort can achieve, even during times of significant adversity.
“Firstly, we were able to work with a committed, local supply chain who all made a considerable effort to ensure the scheme could be delivered safely while we tackled the challenges of COVID-19.
“Secondly, we have forged a ground-breaking network of interested local authority and private organisations who are all equally as passionate about delivering job opportunities for the region’s young people. We may have been the first business to make the ESP pledge, but it has been a collective movement from several parties to ensure the people who took up training and apprenticeship opportunities with us were able to maximise on every element of that opportunity.
“I am delighted that of that cohort, two have received full time jobs, while others have achieved the qualifications required to find other employment in this special industry.
“When this landmark sports hall can open its doors fully to the public, we will be sound in the knowledge that we did more than simply construct a building; we have made an immediate and long-term difference to the Lancaster economy and its young people.”
Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, Cabinet member with responsibility for sustainable economic prosperity, said: “In 2019, the council introduced the requirement for large developments seeking planning permission to produce an ESP. These encourage and sustain greater opportunities for the training and upskilling of local people, thus contributing to our priority to support community wealth-building in the district.
“Conlon Construction is the first contractor to complete an ESP and is a great example of what can be achieved when developers wholeheartedly embrace the initiative. It has seen many local people benefit from the opportunities to enhance their skills in the construction industry via their involvement in the Lancaster University development.
“Under the ESP, developers and contractors are given specialised support by the CSTEP partnership, overseen by Calico Enterprise, to develop and implement employment skills and training plans with the aim of increasing the number of opportunities available locally for those working in the construction industry and for trainees and apprentices.”
The build programme also received support from Upskilling Lancashire, which works to increase the skills, capabilities and long-term career prospects of Lancashire’s workforce – particularly those operating in construction – to ensure SMEs and micro-businesses based within the county can compete regionally, nationally and internationally.