Sports clubs to fight Broadbridge Heath closure

HOR 151111 BBH Leisure Centre closure. photo by derek martin
HOR 151111 BBH Leisure Centre closure. photo by derek martin

ONE OF the leading sports clubs in West Sussex affected by the proposed closure of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre has vowed to fight the move.

The Wickhurst Lane leisure centre urgently needs more than £1 million of repairs and after years of rumours over its future, on Tuesday Horsham District Council (HDC) announced plans to scrap it by the end of next year.

The Leisure Centre is home to some of the town’s biggest sports clubs, including Horsham Blue Star Harriers athletics club, Horsham Arun Badminton Club and Broadbridge Heath Football club - and all have voiced their concerns at facing an uncertain future.

Horsham Arun Badminton Club (HABC) is one of the county’s biggest sporting successes, boasting more than 300 members from as young as nine right the way through to adults. It also operates one of less than 30 Badminton Performance Centres across England, cultivating some of Britain’s brightest young stars.

Nick Chambers, chairman of HABC, said: “At the moment the future is very uncertain and we are obviously really, really disappointed with what is being proposed.”

A £6,000 Leisure Futures Study has deemed the facility ‘surplus to requirements’ and recommendations for its demolition by December 2012 will be discussed at an HDC cabinet meeting later this month.

The council has promised to provide a new home for all of the clubs affected, but with only one other purpose-built badminton court in the county Mr Chambers is concerned adequate facilities simply don’t exist elsewhere.

Mr Chambers added: “At the moment we are taking two views. The first is to fight it through the consultation process and say look at all the uses it has, and for a very small investment in relative terms, £1.5m, you can save it.

“Being based at Broadbridge Heath, with all the facilities we have has been great but the potential of moving elsewhere is a bitter pill to swallow. If we are forced to relocate to a school hall or similar facility it is going to be a real challenge.

“The second view is that we work with Horsham District Council to relocate and rehouse the club. I have to say the council are being supportive, it’s not like they’re just saying tough luck, find a new place yourself, but the problem is there’s very little time now.

“We are not going to let the club die so we will have to find a solution, but in the short term I’ve no doubt we will suffer.

Horsham Blue Star Harriers, whose 290 athletes train at the centre face losing their 70m indoor running track as well as the outdoor athletics arena, the next nearest such facility can be found in Sutton or Ashford.

Chairman Keith May remarked: “If it closes and we do not get a new facility, it would have a devastating effect on the club.”

Meanwhile, Broadbridge Heath FC chairman Keith Soane said the club was waiting to hear the full range of options. A possible new home for the club is included in the Horsham local plan, but it would some way off. HDC has also recently agreed to upgrade the floodlights so the outside arena meets Sussex County League Division 1 standards.

“As a football club we would like to stay exactly where we are,” Mr Soane said. “It is one of the best pitches in the south of England I could imagine, let alone Sussex. The options have not been fully discussed. We have to do what is best for the football club.”