On 29th January 2010, the ground was broken to signify the beginning of the construction phase of the £30 Million Orford Park Community Sports Hub Project in Warrington.

I’m absolutely delighted for Warrington Borough Council, and in particular the indefatigable Orford Park Project Manager Duncan Richardson, who has driven this scheme for over a decade. The team in place to deliver the scheme has an excellent balance and is focusing on integrating service delivery around local needs (not building an iconic temple to flatter politicians’ or funders’ egos!)

This is a community sports hub in the truest sense, combining enabling commercial development, health, education, libraries, sport, leisure and cultural provision underpinned by a  community development  strategy. It will also be integrated with a BSF development due in a few years time.

The project has been a roller coaster, dependant on multiple funding streams, local support requiring real political courage and the commitment of several high profile partners and stakeholders.

Sport England and the Northwest Development Agency have played a pivotal role in supporting the scheme with funding and advocacy alongside the Warrington NHS Trust and a number of other major funders who despite a number of challenges , have backed the project. The Council has consistently shown a huge amount of resilience in delivering this project, demonstrating its commitment to the Orford community and surrounding areas.

For my part, I was actively involved over three years ago when my previous firm, Capita Symonds were invited in to review the deliverability of the scheme. We provided an honest appraisal, identified some areas for improvement and were then appointed by the Council to provide the support needed to optimise the chances of the scheme being delivered. I led that team and am not ashamed to say I became totally engrossed in the delivery of Orford!  Capita Symonds supported the Council in attracting funding, refining the facility mix and design and project management the planning development leading to planning approval in September 2009.

Through an excellent partnership with the Council, their partners and tremendous support from our multi-disciplinary team, the project negotiated the hoops, twists and turns of funding, planning, design, community consultation, risk and procurement.

The key learning that I have taken away from my involvement in the project is as follows:

1.)    Have a clear vision and stick to it

2.)    Keep listening to your community and actively involve them in the design and development of the scheme

3.)    Sell the concept of what you are trying to achieve at multiple levels  – consistently

4.)    Be flexible and appreciate the position of key stakeholders, but keep control of the project

5.)    Ensure continuity of project management support

6.)    Ask for external help when you do not have the capacity or capability

7.)    Smart funding agencies think more about the applicant’s needs rather than their own internal process and procedures.

I would like to wish Duncan Richardson, Lesley Brewin, their colleagues and Elected Members at Warrington the very best of luck as the project team enters this delivery stage.

Looking ahead, I will be very keen to talk to clients who are either struggling with their project, or want to commence the journey to deliver a scheme. The hard earned experience through the Orford Project and others I have personally been involved in will ensure that if the project is based on need, sustainable and has the right level of support, it can be delivered. Duncan Richardson’s testimonial should I hope give you the confidence you need when embarking on your project to consider using SLC.

“During my professional career I have worked with a large number of consultants, and more recently in the development of the Orford Park Project, and this experience shows that Duncan is in the very top echelons of his field.

In developing Orford Park, the first national community sports hub, Duncan added real value to the development being both challenging, constructive and bringing innovation as we went through the tortuous process of delivering this £30m regeneration initiative.  He offered sound advice and support throughout, and was a major contributory factor to achieving the success of the project.”

Duncan Richardson
Strategic Commissioner & Partnership Development Manager
Warrington Borough Council