New twist over leisure centre ‘dodgy dossier’

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A FURTHER question mark hangs over the controversial report that Horsham District Council used to justify proposals to demolish Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

It has emerged that two reports on leisure facilities in Horsham district have been published by the council in the last six years and neither concluded there was any oversupply of sports hall in the north.

In fact both seemed to be aimed at the opposite end of the spectrum and considered whether new additional facilities were needed.

In 2009 an inhouse Review of the Leisure Policies Working Group was compiled and went before cabinet in July and in 2005 Kit Campbell Associates was commissioned to prepare the council’s Planning Policy Guidance Note 17 (PPG17), which is due to be updated again in six months’ times.

The PPG17 report was an assessment of open space, sport and recreation facilities in the district, which gave this conclusion about sports halls: “It would be financially unrealistic to plan on the basis of every parish having anything like the level of provision required by the provision standard.

“Across the district as a whole, however, provision almost exactly matches the provision standard in spite of 21 parishes having no halls.”

However, in the Leisure Futures Study it refers to the PPG17 assessment as: “The provision of Sports Halls closely matches the quantity standard although distribution is skewed towards the north of the district.”

This report featured the map of sports halls shown in a previous edition of the County Times including school halls where community use was not possible.

The 2009 report’s remit was to ‘consider whether the policies meet identified needs’ and ‘examine how multi-purpose community sport and recreation centre siting is determined’.

Working group members considered the 2008 Place Survey and Active People Survey to determine how residents rated the facilities and looked at the council’s expenditure on sport and leisure from 2004 to 2009/10.

They identified nine community, multi-purpose sport and leisure centres, five of which were operated by the council.

These were Pavilions in the Park, Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, Steyning Leisure Centre, Billingshurst Leisure Centre, Forest Recreation Centre, Chanctonbury Sports and Leisure Centre, Henfield Leisure Centre, Southwater Leisure Centre and Bluecoat Sports Health and Fitness Club, although the latter is a private club.

The report said: “Members of the working group concluded there is currently a good supply of community sport and leisure facilities and the majority of residents consider the provision for sport is satisfactory to better.

“There is no strong case for Horsham District Council to make significant additional provision at this juncture.”

The group’s main concern was provision for Pulborough should there be residential development and population growth.

Regarding Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, the report said the council made a contract payment to DC Leisure Management of about £7,000 in 2009/10, made rental income of £18,000 per annum and had a net operating budget for the council of just £15,000 in 2009/10, the lowest of any operating budget quoted.

The working group seems to ignore part of the report that used the same Sport England Sports Facility Calculator as the current Leisure Futures Study to determine a guideline 8.68 sports halls and said the district had 21 and 14 were of three badminton court size or larger.

When the report compares Horsham’s provision of sports halls against neighbouring authorities it gives a figure of 24 but then a ‘detailed report on all sports halls in Horsham district’ lists 17 sites.

A table of net expenditure (excluding asset rentals and capital charges) at Broadbridge Heath are given as £142,924 in 2004/5, £50,136 in 2005/6, £53,414 in 2006/7, £84,927 in 2007/8, £71,710 in 2008/9 and £76,160 budgeted in 2009/10.