Your reporter Ollie Berry’s excellent feature in last week’s Horsham edition made very sad reading. It revealed the strength of feeling about the possible loss of the indoor athletics training facility (fondly known as ‘the tube’) at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
I am at a loss to understand why Horsham District Council should think it’s acceptable to remove this facility from the new ‘flagship’ sporting, recreation and leisure campus that will replace the existing leisure centre.
When challenged about it, representatives of the council admit it’s all down to money.
Can’t they see the bigger picture? If money is all we are talking about, they might like to reflect on the fact that health experts estimate that obesity and physical inactivity cost the NHS £5.3 billion a year.
Even their own Local Government Association is warning that a ‘couch potato’ culture is worsening our obesity crisis.
The sssociation’s Ian Stephens said, ‘We are in the midst of a full-blown obesity crisis which is being exacerbated by plunging levels of grassroots sports participation. This is creating a lost generation of obese kids and putting the NHS under enormous pressure.’
Whatever taxpayers’ funds the council saves by demolishing the tube might well have to be spent in other ways to deal with the repercussions of losing such a valuable facility. It’s not only elite sportsmen and women who use the tube for training, it’s also used by lesser mortals, both young and old alike.
Losing the tube could not only cost the local health authority more in terms of increased obesity levels, but local policing might have to be stepped up if youngsters are deprived of spending time in healthy, physical activity and take to roaming the streets instead.
It’s no good the council saying people will just have to train out in the open instead. If it’s raining or freezing people just won’t turn up for training sessions. They will probably sit hunched in front of a TV or computer screen instead.
Another argument put forward by the council for not replacing the facility is that local tax payers won’t want to pay for something that is used by aspiring athletes from outside Horsham District (they state this without any evidence I am aware of). They repeat that the leisure centre will be a ‘District’ and not a ‘Regional’ facility. They ignore the prestige that comes from having such a fantastic facility in the locality.
It’s a sad fact that bureaucratic bean counters jealously guard their budgets and can’t bear to spend ‘their’ funds on something they think is just outside their particular remit.
Come on councillors and officers and all those working for the various local agencies and authorities – let’s have a bit of joined-up thinking. Look at the greater good and make the decision that it’s right to keep indoor training facilities at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
Dorking Road, Warnham
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