Protesters flock to council offices in support of leisure centre

PROTESTERS flocked to Horsham District Council offices on Wednesday night, showing their support for the leisure centre.

Keith May, chairman of the Blue Star Harriers, said: “Basically, the situation hasn’t changed that much.

“All they’re doing is delaying the decision till May.

“They’re still recommending tonight to keep Broadbridge Heath out of the leisure services contract, which means there’s the opportunity for the council to come back in May and say they want to decommission it.”

However, he said the new recommendation to the council was a positive step.

“From that point of view we’re better off, because we’ve got more time.

“The situation is still the same but, because of the fantastic support that everybody’s given for keeping the leisure centre open, the councillors have said: ‘We want to know more figures before we decide what to do.’”

Horsham Joggers chairman Tony Johnson said: “I don’t think any of the proposals have changed - he [Jonathan Chowen] is still looking at relocating user groups rather than looking at positive ways of keeping the centre open.”

Although the delay may have helped their cause, he said the problem is still not resolved.

“It’s a good start, but doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

“Removal of the centre from the leisure services contract is effectively closing the leisure centre by stealth.”

“There’s no reason at all why it can’t be included.”

Stefan Woroniecki has been using the leisure centre since it was new, 25 years ago.

“I think it’s a grab for money by the council, there’s no two ways about it,” he said.

“The cost of repairs they quoted - those figures are over a five year period, so they’re a bit misleading.

“I understand a lot of the repair bill is for the flat roof, and they have to be repaired every 25 years anyway.

“What a lot of people appreciate about Broadbridge Heath [leisure centre] is its diversity,” he said, explaining that although the centre is popular with children, it also caters for older people.

“That’s why there’s such a big outcry, because it’s such a good community facility - it’s not just a sports centre, it’s a leisure centre.”

Kevin Bland, events organiser for Semka Wado-Rya Karate, said: “I think Horsham District Council have completely misunderstood - they think this is about bricks and mortar, but it’s about the whole community.

“Look at the turnout.

“It’s about emotion, it’s about caring, and a group of people who’ve worked really really hard to be where they are.

“We’re realistic, the economics of today mean that the tough decisions have to be made.”

He said this decision had been made without any meaningful discussion with the public.

“They’re otherwise a fantastic council, but then they come out with something like this - how does that make sense?”

Mr Bland explained about the success of the Karate club and its importance to its members: “Only this week we had five more black belts, all five of us in my family do this, and Alex my son’s done this since he was about five.

“And they’re going to, what? Tell us where they’re going to relocate us.”

He added that although many people think martial arts training is all about fighting, those who understand it know that it is about building self-confidence and discipline.

The club members recently raised £2,000 with a sponsored event for the Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy.

Semka Wado-Rya chief instructor Paul Elliott said the club was established at the leisure centre in 1990.

He said they run classes at Broadbridge Heath from 4.15pm to 5.15pm on Wednesdays - a difficult slot to get at another venue, especially a school sports hall.

Young Marc Burgess was full of praise for Time Out, the leisure centre’s after school and holiday club.

“It helps parents when they put their kids into Time Out,” he said.

“The staff working at Time Out are incredibly good, and the kids have fun while their parents are working.”

If it was taken away, he said, parents would have to pay child minders, or put the responsibility on older brothers and sisters.