What went wrong with the dream of 1987?

Comment by Paul Deacon, November 15 2011.

ON MY first day of work as a young reporter on the County Times in July 1987, I was dispatched to Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

The newly-opened venue was hosting its first major school sports event and there was a palpable sense of pride in the air.

The talk was all about the great future in store for these youngsters, with such excellent facilities in the district.

Many of the children competing 24 years ago will now have children of their own - but what a different prospect they face!

“Sport dream is a proud reality”, said our headline for the official opening of the centre.

Not for much longer, it isn’t.

“Council set for brighter future”, announced the adjacent heading.

Only the most fanatically positive-minded defenders of Horsham district council would dare make that claim today, amidst the news that the leisure centre is to be demolished.

David Moorcroft, a very famous British athlete at the time, is pictured in 1987 raising the Horsham District Council flag in celebration.

Maybe he should be invited back next year to haul it down again in a special combined Silver Jubilee and Demolition celebration?

The news, which has come as a genuine shock to so many people across the district, leaves a host of questions hanging in the air.

How is it, for instance, that the centre is now beyond the point of financially viable repair, less than 25 years after it was built?

Not only are there Victorian swimming pools still in use around the country, but Roman bath houses have also survived a rather longer period of time.

Why is it that public buildings built in recent decades have this tendency to structural inadequacies? What exactly is going wrong?

The original scheme was funded by Tesco as part of their development on the same area. A shelf life of just 25 years is hardly the community benefit they and the council’s planners would have had in mind at the time.

Residents may also wonder what exactly the council has lined up for the leisure centre site once it has been knocked down.

It seems rather convenient that a centre deemed ‘surplus to requirements’ happens to occupy part of the ‘Broadbridge Heath Quadrant’ the council is aiming to redevelop.