No athletics track in Broadbridge Heath planning brief agreed

JPCT 190614 S14260231x Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre campaigners -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140619-122132001
JPCT 190614 S14260231x Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre campaigners -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140619-122132001

Members of the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre were left disappointed at the lack of detail in a long-awaited planning blueprint agreed by councillors last week.

Last week Horsham District Council voted to adopt the Broadbridge Quadrant Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - a set of guidelines for developers, planners and councillors.

The quadrant is an area of land south west of the village, which has been highlighted for regeneration.

It is currently home to the leisure centre with athletics tracks and bowls green, Tesco, a retail park and a West Sussex County Council depot.

The SPD outlines guidelines for retail, commercial property and further housing on the Quadrant as well as the controversial future of the existing leisure centre.

Residents were keen to hear if it would have a running track, bowls green and a hall for table tennis.

The ‘principle facilities’ of a new leisure centre were listed in last week’s report.

They include four badminton courts (there are three now), a sensory room, 60-70 station gym (about 40 today), multi-functional studios, multi-use games area, indoor bowls facility and associated changing areas.

Not listed was the much talked about athletics provision.

motives questioned

Giving a statement before the debate Sue Kornycky, a member of the Broadbridge Heath Joint Users’ Group (BJUG), said: “Public perception is that council’s decision over the leisure site redevelopment will be primarily influenced by direct financial return and a desire to maximise capital extracted from the site redevelopment.

“Much more weight needs to be given to the beneficial usage of facilities by the community and not just the revenue generated.”

Fellow BJUG speaker Sheila White told members the centre now had the equivalent of six badminton courts.

She said: “Members might think planners have been generous here. It appears that are going for a sports hall that will be bigger than the existing one.

“However, what has been glossed over is the fact that we would be losing two large multi-functional areas (the table tennis hall and the indoor athletics are known as The Tube), that together provide additional hall space roughly the size of three badminton courts.”

Detail premature

Presenting the SPD to council, cabinet member for living and working communities Claire Vickers said: “It’s premature this evening to be discussing such details. These will form part of the business case (for the leisure centre) which will be brought to full council in the coming months.

“All detailed proposals will then be determined through the council’s normal planning application process, which would of course include public consultation.

“What we all want to see is the provision of a top quality leisure facility for all, that is the envy many. Other local authorities would not even dream of making such a provision in this current economic climate.”

underused and expensive

Cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure Jonathan Chowen said cost had to come into it, but that discussions were continuing with BJUG, parish council and the centre’s managers Places for People.

He said: “The indoor athletics Tube as it’s called. It’s more an aircraft hanger. It was built a long time ago, incredibly expensive to look after.

“If it wasn’t for the sterling work of the users People and Places to maximise its use, if it wasn’t for people like the over 50s club who go there and use it on a Thursday and Monday, it’s really isn’t used much.

“It’s the same for the specialist indoor tennis room.”

He added: “What am I driven by? I’m driven by provision of a new sports centre which is going to be able to stand the test of time.

“I think we have looked at the old one and 25 years on no one can believe how out of date it’s become.”

He said a new centre would be purpose built, flexible and sustainable for 21st century sport.

The SPD was passed by majority, however there were concerns about the retail and housing mix on site (see detail on this page).


Since the meeting members of BJUG have reacted

Chairman Paul Kornycky said they felt the council misunderstood their position regarding the Tube.

He said: We are not suggesting a like for like replacement of this facility, as we agree it would be unsustainable.

“What we are suggesting is that the equivalent sports hall space be arranged so as to accommodate indoor athletics, as well as badminton, basketball, trampolining etc.

“Our innovative plans would also introduce indoor tennis to Horsham district for the first time, something that has been identified by HDC as a sports deficiency and which they have failed to enable. “

A few hours before the debate, Mr Chowen and council chairman Brian O’Connell honoured two Commonwealth Games medallists Jade Lally and Sian Honnor.

Before the meeting Jade said: “The Tube - we have one now and we are not going to have one. It’s used for trampolining, bowls, athletics, professional training sessions. It will be a big blow when that goes. There’s not anything local, but I guess we’ll just have to deal with it.”

In a letter to the editor Mrs White has noted how ‘ironic’ it was to have the debate shortly after a presentation celebrating athletic excellence.