LETTER: Community backlash

COUNCILLOR Jonathan Chowen has been described as ‘courageous’ for his revised plan on Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre. Is this courageous? Courageous that a U-turn was made on the plan in light of the flawed data used to write the report?

It could be suggested had the council fully investigated the issues, consulted user groups properly and been truthful about the financial issues then the recommendations and indeed the whole plan would have had more credibility and the community backlash could have been significantly reduced.

Councillor Frances Haigh should be commended for her recognition of the many different user groups of the centre.

This is the key point of this debate; yes, in essence Broadbridge Heath was built as a sports and leisure centre, but it has become a community centre and, as 7,000-plus Horsham residents signing the petition have shown, this community has understandable reservations over the proposed plan.

A community is built of many groups; of families, under fives, school children of all ages, young adults, over 50s; these groups ARE the centre, they ARE the community and they are also the voters.

Councillor Haigh has been criticised for being honest and putting her points across against the proposal, but that is what a debate and, moreover, democracy, is.

The word ‘trust’ seems to be bandied around a lot at the moment, but how is trust formulated? Is it by listening to the people?

It has been argued that the people have been listened to but they have obviously not been heard. If trust is to be gained, people must be heard, not merely listened to.

The ‘over-provision’ of leisure facilities identified in the now discredited Leisure Futures Study is the key player in the whole debacle.

A new plan suggests that a new leisure centre could be built in Broadbridge Heath’s place, but would this not still be the ‘over-provision’ that the report argues so adamantly that Horsham has?

And what of the user groups and regular customers, would they be rehoused during the build?

There are many questions that need answering before the vote in May 2012, perhaps questions that should have been investigated and answered before the plan even got to this stage.

SARAH LEEVES

Crawley Road, Horsham