The ‘People’s Vision’ for a new leisure centre in Broadbridge Heath was launched by users last week as they continue to fight to make their voices heard by the council.
Almost two years ago members of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre (BBHLC) forced the council to commit to ‘Option 7A: the People’s Option’, which contained the minimum level of services users were willing to accept in a new facility.
The victory represented a policy u-turn as Horsham District Council had originally announced the demolition of the centre with no replacement in November 2011.
In February the council unveiled its masterplan for the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant including the provision of a new leisure centre, consultation on which closed last Friday.
But in response to proposals, which users feel only pay ‘lip service’ to leisure, BBHLC’s Joint User Group (JUG) along with the Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club, has re-ignited its campaign by launching ‘The People’s Vision’ for a new facility, a list of 12 principles they are asking HDC to sign up to.
The group argues this will not only soundly steer the project to a successful conclusion, it will also improve existing users’ confidence that the new centre will be widely acceptable.
The principles for a new centre include it being a district facility, having acceptable parking, accessibility, catering, and continuity of provision.
Paul Kornycky, deputy chairman of the JUG, said: “We accept a lot of the detail has to come later but we do not feel fully engaged with the council in this project and this is to agree some principles that can get the project to a good solution and we hope they will sign up.
“We do not like to make demands but we think it’s a statement of really good practice of community involvement.”
Peter Everett, lead member for the leisure centre on the JUG, added: “We believe it’s a stepping stone to a closer working relationship.
“We do not want to be adversaries, we want to work with them and they can’t seem to understand that concept.”
Current plans for the quadrant include a new leisure centre, up to 200 apartments, a medical centre, hotel, and new retail and restaurant units.
Since Horsham District Council is expected to receive significant capital receipts from development on its land, the JUG argues it presents an opportunity to upgrade, not downgrade, leisure facilities for the district, especially given massive housebuilding underway south of Broadbridge Heath and west of Horsham.
SOARING VISITOR numbers
The campaigners’ arguments will be strengthened by HDC’s own figures released last week, which show that the number of visitors to BBHLC, along with other facilities across the district, is soaring.
The four centres recorded more than one million visitors for the first time ever in 2013/14, an increase of 11.3 per cent increase.
Horsham’s Pavilions in the Park, Steyning, and Billingshurst centres saw visitors increase by 11.4 per cent, 5.6 per cent, and 10.7 per cent respectively.
But Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre saw the highest increase at 15.8 per cent, registering more than 200,000 visitors for the first time in its history.
Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury, and West Grinstead), HDC’s cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure, said: “This is fantastic news and we are really pleased with the increase in attendances at our local leisure centres.
“It’s testament to the great partnership between Horsham District Council and Places for People Leisure and we look forward to continuing to improve health and wellbeing in the Horsham district in the months and years ahead.”
Campaigners have already scored one victory as once the consultation ended last Friday a report on the quadrant masterplan was due to come before the Full Council meeting on Wednesday June 25.
However a spokesperson for HDC said: “The parish council [Broadbridge Heath] felt that more time was needed for Horsham District Council to consider representations before formulating a final Supplementary Planning Document.
“Cabinet members agreed to reschedule the report and it will go to Council in September.”
Mr Kornycky has argued that parts of the document were ‘misleading’ with no mention of key planning legislation including National Planning Policy Framework paragraph 74, which relates to development on sites used for leisure or recreation.
LAUNCH OF ‘People’s VISION’
At the launch of the ‘People’s Vision’ last Thursday many members of the centre were keen to emphasise what would be lost if a stripped down centre was built.
In particular Steve King, Sussex lead coach for athletics, called for the retention of the indoor tube.
He said: “The facility is excellent. It would have a really detrimental affect on athletics in the county to lose it.”
Meanwhile 50+ members, of which there are more than 450, felt that the ancillary facilities were just as important alongside leisure provision.
Sondra Root said: “You look at the elderly people here, if we are not active we would become inactive and we would become unhealthy which would be a drain on the NHS.”
Ann Harrison, who lives in Slinfold and credits the leisure centre in helping her recover from an operation to remove a brain tumour five years ago, said that many people used the centre for rehabilitation and she knew two people with Parkinson’s Disease who benefitted from the range of activities on offer.
Sue Kornycky added: “People come to the 50+ who are on their own and might be widowed and can meet friends and have a laugh and have a meal. It’s more like a club.”