When Horsham District Council sold land to Tesco in the 1980s to build its new supermarket, it had three principal purposes in mind for using the proceeds.
To build a leisure and sports centre that would serve the district as a whole with a wide range of activities.
To have sufficient financial means to make the centre of Horsham town attractive to potential commercial investors and residents.
To make funds available to parish councils within the district to help them build or renovate their leisure centres or village halls.
These intentions formed a balanced approach to the needs of an expanding Horsham district and they were successfully carried through.
The present proposals by the district council appear to be solely finance based which, although understandable in the present economic times, should not be the over-riding factor for the district council.
The impact of potential housing development in Horsham district which is expected to be larger than its neighbouring districts must surely be a significant factor and it seems incongruous in the immediate catchment areas of Horsham town and Broadbridge Heath, already facing large-scale housing development , that the existing district leisure centre should be demolished and replaced with a village facility.
It is also inconceivable to suggest that many of the activities from the centre could be dispersed to schools and private clubs which are restrictive in their hours of available useage and in some cases could not absorb the higher number of participants.
The proposed sale of the land will, on its own, produce a very large area for Tesco supermarket.
If, as has been hinted, the county councils puts its existing land holdings into the pot, the site will be extremely large.
Could anyone genuinely assume that a planning agreement would have the strength to put conditions on the use of the extended site or on a wider range of goods that Tesco may wish to sell?
In consequence, could this have a detrimental effect on commerce in Horsham’s town centre?
The district council had similar considerations firmly in mind when the land was sold some 25 years ago.
It is clear that the county council is unlikely to have any wider consideration than the best financial return on its land, as was evident in its attempts to sell its landholding near to Chesworth farm.
The district council is therefore firmly in the driving seat and must explain its vision and its strategy so that the residents of Horsham district can be fully aware of the direction in which it is being led.