New question marks over crucial report

FRESH question marks have emerged over the crucial report that has been used to justify the demolition of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

The apparent ‘oversupply’ of sports halls in Horsham as identified in the Leisure Futures Report has been challenged this week - which was produced by a consultant at a cost of £6,000.

Many of the maps enclosed in the document lack a proper key, explaining what the illustrations refer to.

For example, the map on page 75 of the report, entitled Sports Hall District-wide Overview (see page 2), is presented as evidence of the ‘oversupply’ of sports halls in the district.

However, after closer examination by the County Times, the majority of the ‘sport halls’ are revealed to be schools, many privately owned, which are not available for general and daily community use.

The analysis and conclusions are also questioned by one County Times reader from Rudgwick, who says Sport England warns using such methodology to calculate sports hall provision is ‘fundamentally flawed’.

The report states Horsham district has 24 sports halls when Sport England recommended 8.64 to meet the needs of the population and an ‘oversupply’ in the north of the district.

But only ten of the halls, including Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre, are not schools, with access limited to bookings for evenings, weekends and holidays when the halls are not already in use by after school clubs.

The County Times asked Horsham District Council for a key to the 19 stars marking sport halls on the report’s map (see page 2) on November 28, after a reader questioned where there was a sports hall in Rudgwick.

On November 30 a council spokesperson said there were two schools in Rudgwick with sports hall provision - Pennthorpe and Rikkyo.

We asked again for a key to the stars on the map and on December 2 received a list of nine sports halls with their mileage from Broadbridge Heath but no reference to the stars on the map.

After asking once again, on December 5 we received the map on page 2 but still with only 22 of the 24 sports halls listed.

The County Times decided to investigate and reveal what ‘sports halls’ in the Horsham district the stars actually represent.

The star in Rudgwick in fact refers to Rudgwick Primary School, where the school hall can be hired for £10 an hour during evenings or weekends.

Although Towers Convent School in Upper Beeding is listed, the hall is no longer available for hire.

Windlesham House School in Washingon has a theatre/sports hall for hire but not generally in term time as it is constantly in use.

Farlington School in Broadbridge Heath said its facilities were ‘almost completely booked for the rest of this academic year’.

It provides facilities for a wide range of clubs and organisations such as Horsham Hockey Club, Heron Olympic Football Club, Horsham Crusaders, Horsham Sparrows, Roffey Robins, Horsham & District Radio Controlled Model Club, Horsham Bluebelles, Rudgwick Netball Club, Slinfold & Farlington Rainbows, the De Braam Ballet Academy, Barracudas Activity Camps and the Musical Theatre Workshop.

Greenway School in Horsham also caters for Leisure Link activities such as table tennis after school.

This is a council-run programme for children and young people, the elderly or people with lower levels of fitness.

These sports halls were identified using the website - a register of venues linked to Sport England.

On the Sport England website is a ‘sports facility calculator’ where if you use the population figure in the report a figure of 8.64 required sports halls is revealed, but it also carries a warning about its use.

Paul Kornycky, of Cox Green, Rudgwick, said he was surprised to find a sports hall listed in his village.

“It has since become clear that this list is simply obtained by using the Active Places ‘search engine’,” he said.

“It is basically a register, not comprehensive and does not indicate the availability/facilities of the service provision beyond its generic definition.

“So in the report a public leisure centre counts, as does a state school hall, as does a public school hall, as does a private club (it is unclear as to how the 62 badminton court metric has been established).

“Clearly Rudgwick School Hall will not in any way provide a substitute for the facilities I use at BBHLC on the 50+ Activity Day.”

He said if Horsham had 24 sports halls and the Sport England recommendation was 8.64 there was ‘clearly an oversupply’.

But he used the sports facility calculator and said: “I have been able to download their facility and re-create the calculation using 2011 population figures from the Leisure Futures Report.

“Sport England do, however, make the following statement: ‘The SFC should not be used for strategic gap analysis; this approach is fundamentally flawed’.

“Unfortunately this is exactly what the HDC report has used it for.

“The Sport England website also states: ‘Planning to meet the demands of the new population using facilities which are not open for the whole week will need to make allowance for the reduced hours’.

“So, unsurprisingly, availability of sports halls is critical.

“To contrast 24 ‘supplied’, against 8.64 ‘needed’ is completely disingenuous,” he continued.

“To even begin to compare like with like, the 24 should be evaluated for facilities and availability.

“The 8.64 represents ‘full time availability’ sports halls of ‘four badminton court size’ (hence 34.56 badminton courts).

“The oversupply case is not proven by these statistics and the ignoring of the warnings to this effect lead you to question the integrity of the whole report.”

The County Times has put all the above points to the district council, asking how it could take such a significant decision to close a community leisure centre based on the findings of the consultant’s report.

HDC had not been able to answer these enquiries by the time this paper went to press.

A spokesperson for the council said: “We continue to answer a number of questions from Horsham’s media about the Leisure Futures Study - as well as other council matters – and, of course, will always try to do so.

“Owing to the detailed nature of some of the enquiries received about the Leisure Futures Study, we are currently finding that it is not always possible to reply with a fully researched answer within press deadlines.

“We are keen to provide all information asked of us to work with the press in doing so.”