Work on the £25m redevelopment of The Sands Centre is progressing as planned despite the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic, Carlisle City Council’s leader has said.

The project to transform the venue by creating two new swimming pools - significantly improving the facilities and introducing sustainable features to support the reduction of carbon emissions - got underway in March, just weeks before the Government introduced a lockdown due to Covid-19.

And Councillor John Mallinson said work was ongoing and the overhaul still on track to be completed next year.

“It’s a major £25m investment for Carlisle and we think it’s very important," he said.

“We are very pleased to be getting on with it because we are keen to keep it going.

“They are moving along now, the contractors, and everybody is keen to crack on with it but they are also working safely through the pandemic.”

Mr Mallinson said the main hall had been acquired by the army for use by the NHS earlier in the pandemic if needed but that need had not materialised and the use had not set work back.

He said he did not believe the timeline set of a winter 2021 finish, with a view to the new-look centre opening in early 2022, would need to change, but admitted the pandemic meant nothing was certain.

A council spokeswoma said work had been completed on the former Newman School site, on Lismore Place, to allow the centre’s gym and fitness activities to transfer there temporarily once guidance allowed indoor gyms to open.

The aim is to combine the facilities from The Pools on James Street with The Sands Centre,

They confirmed the entrance previously being used for The Sands’ car park had now been changed to a new access on Newmarket Road, further down the road.

Signs are in place in the car park and people who are unable to find a space to park have been encouraged to use the Swifts Bank car park, via The Sands car park, with the usual access to the Swifts Bank car park now an exit only.

The improvements planned include the creation of an eight-lane main pool and a learner pool with a moveable floor, as well as a a four-court sports hall with a spectator gallery, a 120-station fitness suite, two dance studios, a spinning studio and changing facilities.

The new building’s design will be dementia-friendly, and is also set to include an NHS physiotherapy suite.

Mr Mallinson said the project was much-needed to replace ageing facilities and bring everything under one roof.

All events at the centre were postponed in March due to the measures introduced around mass gatherings.