Call for community to run leisure centre

BROADBRIDGE Heath Leisure Centre should be run ‘by the people for the people’ said the ward district councillor.

Malcolm Curnock (LDem, Broadbridge Heath), also a parish councillor, was ‘very disappointed’ at the report, which made assumptions without detailed evidence to support them, he told the cabinet meeting.

The site was bought by the council with a covenant it was to be used for leisure and recreational purposes and the groups using the land were promised dedicated facilities that would be permanent.

“Permanent now means 25 years,” he said.

Originally the societies were keyholders and the football club ran a bar until in the 1990s the council decided it wanted to run the centre.

Facilities there were used to justify the west of Horsham development.

He said they had been without allotments for 25 years and seeking their relocation since Tesco arrived.

“My experience has been beware of promises - they come cheap,” he said, calling for a written agreement of what was to be provided and when.

There was nothing in the report about the number of groups using the centre and activity times or capacity elsewhere to absorb the dispersal.

He called the report a ‘desktop exercise’ and a ‘means to support the objectives to close’ the centre for the needs of the Quadrant.

There was insufficient evidence to make an informed decision and no certainty of how the proposals would be delivered.

“However, I would support the removal of the the leisure centre from the Leisure Services Contract tender as there is another way to manage it - by the people for the people,” he said.

Frances Haigh (LDem, Horsham Park) said the report was the evidence base for future leisure planning but had not been subject to the ‘usual consultation with the community’.

“I am concerned about the lack of honesty and transparency being demonstrated by this council,” she said

“There is an 800lb gorilla looming over these proposals, possibly by name of Tesco’s.

“It seems that the whole document is a concoction to justify meeting their demands.

“We need to consider the proposals for the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant but we do not have them as they have been left out of the Horsham Town Plan which is currently out to consultation.

“We have to decide about the future of the leisure centre without knowing what is intended for future use of the site. This is unacceptable.

“The cabinet has to remind itself that it is there to act on behalf of residents.”

She said 40 per cent of the district’s population lived in Horsham area, probably because they valued the leisure facilities of the town.

She questioned the way the figures had been used, such as for indoor bowls where the calculations said there wasn’t enough provision yet this didn’t match the take up so the study decided there was too much provision.

Yet for fitness it had been decided there was too much provision without any figures for take up.

They needed more data to make a decision.

“Providing council facilities enables all sections of the community to participate in sport and to enjoy the health and social benefits of doing so,” she said.

David Holmes (LDem, Horsham Park) agreed there were many weaknesses with the report.

Broadbridge Heath and the Pavilions were complementary and it was wrong to say they didn’t need both.

It was also wrong not to value the clubs providing community facilities. “Voluntary clubs are precisely what we want as part of localism and the Big Society,” he said.

There were also no facts to support the assertion the building was at the end of its life.

The report lacked objectivity, referring to ‘the perception that most built facilities are available in the north’ and ‘the need to address the perception’.

However, later it says maps of where facilities are ‘suggest the perception is not supported’.

It then says ‘it could be argued that the population of Horsham Town... has a more generous level of provision’ and then ‘no part of the district appears to be significantly deprived of access to a core range of facilities’.

“This is no basis upon which to demolish a well used leisure facility that offers some facilities not available elsewhere; in a year when we are hosting the Olympics,” he said.

There was no jusification for demolition in the report.

“Before we accept this report as the basis of future leisure facilities in the district it requires much more careful scrutiny. It does not seem to be a sound basis,” he said.