What about democracy?

IT WAS great to see so many protesters outside the council offices last Thursday.

The council hadn’t given people much time to organise themselves to show their opposition to this disgraceful proposal (I wonder why?) but the protesters certainly made their view plain.

I overheard one or two councillors admitting to each other that they had ‘slipped in by a side door’, thus avoiding the demonstration outside.

Inside the cabinet chamber (very comfortably and expensively appointed, I noticed) the public area was full.

It was certainly a lively meeting and the public made their views known when they loudly applauded those who spoke against the demolition of the leisure centre.

It was suggested that the meeting of the full council on December 21 be postponed so more consultation could take place with the wide variety of people who use the leisure centre, but this request was denied.

Of course the Conservative members of cabinet fell into line behind leader Robert Nye and after the public left the chamber they voted in favour of recommending demolition to the full council meeting in December.

Whatever happened to local democracy? My feeling is that leading members of the council had already made a decision behind closed doors and then commissioned a ‘report’ to back up what they wanted to do – sell the land to a big business like Tesco and put the proceeds into council coffers.

I was allowed to speak for two minutes at the meeting and spoke out on behalf of the 50-plus age group who use the leisure centre all day every Thursday.

No one had advised us about the closure. Perhaps they think the older generation don’t really matter.

Thank goodness the County Times is on the ball and able to alert us to what’s afoot.

There was certainly no mention of the 50-plus user group in the report. This smacks of age discrimination.

For a very affordable entrance fee and all on the same site we can enjoy exercise classes designed to keep us fit and mobile, tennis, badminton and trampolining to keep osteoporosis at bay, dancing sessions, archery and short mat bowls.

The list goes on – and I haven’t even mentioned the gym and its excellent equipment.

Councillor Jonathan Chowen says he is personally committed to finding alternative provision for all these activities.

Where, exactly? He’ll have his work cut out to find somewhere offering all this on one site, with adequate, free parking and easy access by public transport.

He suggests local schools could allow people who have been displaced from the leisure centre to use of their sports facilities.

I hardly think that’s going to happen during the day when schools are in session.

Tom Crowley, the council’s chief executive, talks of part of the Countryside Properties development site being secured for sports pitches and leisure facilities.

Why demolish existing leisure facilities, only to build new ones nearby?

It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes any sense!

Of course, it’s not only physical health and wellbeing which are so important to users of the leisure centre.

There’s also the wonderful social side attaching to it; particularly important for the older generation.

Perhaps the council could try putting a monetary value that.

Maybe a little less spent on things like the Shelley Fountain and park and ride might help the council’s finances.

I believe this is just the first skirmish and that Horsham District Council has a fight on its hands. Let’s keep up the momentum.

They really can’t be allowed to get away with nodding this through.


Great Daux,