At A.W. Hardy, we’re incredibly proud of the positive impact our builds have on our communities.
One project that certainly transformed local life was the creation of a two-storey clubhouse at Westcliff Rugby Football Club, based in Eastwood, Southend.
Southend Borough Council (SBC), in conjunction with Henry Boot Developments (HBD), wanted to create an Airport Business Park near the boundary of London Southend Airport. The land earmarked for this was partly agricultural farmland, but also fell into the realms of the clubhouse and pitches of Westcliff Rugby Club. Before any work on the Business Park could commence, SBC and HBD needed to relocate the Rugby Club and its pitches from the southern side of the park to a greenfield site on the northern side of the estate.
The club was essentially SBC’s tenant, but the land itself actually belonged to Rochford District Council (RDC), so they needed the co-operation and assistance of another local authority to get the ball rolling. Developers were also aware that an archaeological survey needed to be carried out before the works could start. (We don’t think anything of great importance was found – we’re sure we would have heard about it if so!)
A.W. Hardy has not been directly involved in the works at the Airport Business Park, but at time of writing, the development is coming along nicely. The infrastructure and roads are in, and a few structures have been erected, including a very large manufacturing building for IPECO; some speculative industrial units; an SBC-inspired innovation facility hub called The Launchpad; and a Costa Coffee drive through and café (which is arguably the most important for many). The 21-hectare multi-purpose park is due to be completed in 2023. Visit the Park’s website for more information and construction updates.
Knowing that core facilities at the club needed to be moved and rebuilt, we were instructed by SBC and HBD to help with the construction of their new Clubhouse and car park. So, once the new playing fields had been created by another firm and were suitably established, we started bringing the project together with the help of several third parties.
The Clubhouse’s design was put together by HBD using the architectural firm Jefferson Sheard Architects (JSA). Civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical requirements were handled by MLM Group (now SWECO UK Ltd), and Burnley Wilson Fish were brought in as the build’s project managers and quantity surveyors.
The project was then put out to competitive tender for design and build – and A.W. Hardy provided the successful bid.
As part of the contract, we needed to take on JSA & MLM to further develop the design and assist us through the build stage. We instructed our sister company, W&H Roads, to carry out the substructure, drainage, access road, car park, and external works. And, of course, the team at the Rugby Club helped us determine how the various rooms within the Clubhouse would be used and provided us with their thoughts on layouts and colour schemes.
This hugely collaborative effort eventually resulted in:
• Six ground-floor changing rooms
• A gym area
• First-floor function rooms that include a bar, kitchen facilities, and an external viewing balcony
• The incorporation of a self-contained flat that could be used by a club employee
We all interacted and worked well together as a team to produce a functional, fine-looking building that delivers incredible value to its users. We were also delighted to achieve a BREAAM standard of Very Good, which demonstrates our commitment to sustainable construction.
That said, the project wasn’t without its challenges.
The design brief required us to construct brickwork cavity walls, precast concrete floors, and metal-clad roofing. As part of the tender and construction process, the scheme had to include temporary access and utility services provisions, which were ultimately required throughout the entire contract period.
We encountered unexpected problems when the contractor appointed by the Airport Business Park to provide the estate services infrastructure went into liquidation, meaning that the new Clubhouse had no electricity, gas, or water available when we were approaching the main build construction. We temporarily relied on generators and bowser tanks to keep the project moving. It was a year before the services were supplied and installed, at which point we had to return to connect everything up and ensure the services were commissioned ready for handover.
As the project was located close to a Second World War airfield, there was a risk of unexploded munitions and bombs in the area. We were given guidance on what to look out for, but everyone had to be careful and watchful during the excavation stage!
Sadly, the Clubhouse’s facilities couldn’t be enjoyed for long after they were initially completed.
Not long after the Rugby Club took occupation, Covid hit, bringing long periods of lockdown and curtailing the club’s playing seasons. There was no rugby whatsoever in 2020-21, and the building sat dormant.
As James Evans, Chairman, explains, this was an incredibly frustrating time for Westcliff RFC.
“After we finally got the keys in December 2019, we only had three months to enjoy our new facilities before the club was shut down. Not only was this challenging for our senior players, it was also a big blow for our Youth and Mini teams,” he said. “We exist for our community, and to not be able to serve them at The Gables for such a long period of time was awful.”
However, as soon as Covid restrictions began to ease, James and his team started running outdoor events and training sessions – making sure all guidelines were adhered to, of course.
“We were back in full swing by the end of last year, and finally able to appreciate our new space and everything it offers. From the bar and kitchen through to the changing rooms, all the facilities here are state-of-the-art. Everyone who sees it says ‘wow’. It is a fantastic building that has certainly futureproofed the club for the next 30 years or more. Being able to cook for our teams before and after training makes a big difference. Plus, we’re particularly pleased that the upgrade has attracted new players into Westcliff RFC. We just want to thank A.W. Hardy once again for their support during the project, and, of course, their continued support of the club.”