Health and safety forces urgent demolition of Mepal Outdoor Centre

Mepal Outdoor Leisure Centre. Aerial views taken on July 31st show the scope and scale of the centre

Mepal Outdoor Leisure Centre. Aerial views taken on July 3, 2020, show the scope and scale of the centre. It also shows some of the damage caused by arson attacks. - Credit: Terry Harris

Thousands pass it daily and its tented reception area has probably earnt it the right to be described as iconic, but Mepal Outdoor Centre is to demolished. 

East Cambridgeshire District Council will look for formal approval of the demolition – ahead of a planning application to build a £6m crematorium on the site. 

A report to the finance and assets committee explains the parlous state of the remaining buildings. 

“The current site and the structures within the site, have been subject to fire, unauthorised access and trespass, vandalism and theft of materials,” says commercial director Emma Grima. 

“These events have had a significant effect on the structure and safety of the existing buildings.” 

Council leader Anna Bailey says the demolition would have to go ahead soon, even though the crematorium application has been delayed. 

She said the council needed to provide two accesses to the site and negotiations were in progress with the county council highways department. 

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“A separate access is needed for those wanting to use the area for dog walking, to go fishing or bird watching,” she said.  

There was no “turning turtle” on the crematorium proposals but the need to make the site safe was paramount. 

“The state of the site is becoming really appalling,” she said. 

Aerial images showing fire at the Mepal Outdoor Centre, near Chatteris. Pictures: Danie

Aerial images show a fire at the Mepal Outdoor Centre, near Chatteris. - Credit: Daniel Easy

The committee will be told that “from an asset management case, there is a clear case for total demolition of the existing structures.  

“Although the condition of individual structures and the costs of making them safe vary, there will remain significant asset risk in retention and future financial viability for maintenance and eventual demolition.” 

The council hopes some equipment can be rescued – such as the climbing wall within the tented building – and these could be offered to voluntary organisations.   

The estimated cost of demolition of the site is £53,000. The cost to retain the existing structures are estimated at £24,500 as a one-off cost. 

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TE

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken last July show the extent of the grounds. - Credit: Terry Harris

However, there could be additional cost if fencing/shuttering needs to be replaced as a result of vandalism/theft.  

And the committee will hear of “ongoing costs related to maintaining the security of the site prior to any future development of £1,000 per month”.  

Mepal crematorium

Mepal crematorium: one of the early design concepts for the new crematorium on the Mepal outdoor site - Credit: East Cambs Council

The council says it has already incurred costs of £61,000 since the site became vacant.