WELL, Jonathan Chowen obviously thinks he has been listening. He probably has, but it’s a pity that he has been unable to interpret what he has been told!
The past few months of speculation about the future of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre have been a very frustrating time for me. I have had numerous conversations and telephone calls from former colleagues, council members and regular users of BBH Leisure Centre, all encouraging me to make public comment.
Following the last minute reprieve, I really thought that the council would do the honourable thing and produce a well-researched and considered plan. A plan which would set out to replace the essential elements of the current centre, make appropriate provision for all the new residents in the immediate area of BBH, and ‘pocket’ the remaining funds following the sale of the current site to the local grocer.
I also thought that the work of three different and independent leisure consultants would point the council in the right direction. Having said that, I have always been a bit sceptical of the consultants who may get the theory right, but who don’t take sufficient account of the local circumstances.
So, following the initial bombshell and months of consultation, I find it unbelievable that Jonathan Chowen has declared the proposed new leisure centre as a triumph for leisure planning and one which will give so much pleasure to district residents.
The proposed new leisure centre appears to be an extremely poor replacement for the current centre and contains nothing more than would have to be provided for the residents of the new homes being built to the west of Horsham.
The proposed centre does nothing, apart from indoor bowls, to replace the existing leisure centre facility. Proposals for an athletics track and indoor training area to follow, are far from convincing and no one should be taken in by such empty promises.
From your report in last week’s paper, a number of issues immediately spring to mind that need some more detailed clarification before I or anyone else should be persuaded that the proposals represent anything like partial replacement of the current centre. For example:
Will the external multi-use courts be replaced on the same scale, ie at least four courts?
What is the size of the two court hall? Will it be of sufficient size and height to accommodate all existing uses?
What justification can there be for reducing the health and fitness areas, when the local population is increasing?
Why are the general purpose/meeting rooms not being replaced?
Won’t most of the costs of this new, but inadequate facility, be financed by the house builders as part of their community infrastructure contributions?
It would seem to me that the council will be trying to spend as little as possible of the funds that they can achieve by selling the existing leisure centre site.
Having spent 20 years working for Horsham District Council, I was always very proud of the fact that the Horsham district has been the envy of every other council in East and West Sussex for its range and quality of leisure provision.
The overall leisure offer in this area is exceptional and contributes significantly to the quality of life of its residents. It’s a significant factor in making Horsham special.
What we are witnessing is a gradual ‘dumbing down’ of this provision, and while I recognise that the financial times are tough, Mr Chowen and his cabinet colleagues should not underestimate the impact of their decisions.
Some of his recent comments suggest that he doesn’t understand the impact and contribution that sport and recreation activities make to people’s lives. Mr Chowen appears to be demonstrating that the health, well-being and quality of life of the residents is no longer a priority!
What next... a major housing development on Rookwood Golf Course? The museum exhibits put into storage in Park House? I dread to contemplate what plans he has for the Capitol!
North Parade, Horsham