Coaches and athletes’ call for retention of indoor athletics facility in new leisure centre

Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre athletes, parents of users, and coaches. L-R Jade Lally, Dave Ingram, Elspeth Turner, Melanie Anning, Cleo Tomlinson, Keith May, Calum Neil, Keren Hannyngton, Kim Milnthorpe. Several are wearing gags as they were not given a slot to speak by HDC

Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre athletes, parents of users, and coaches. L-R Jade Lally, Dave Ingram, Elspeth Turner, Melanie Anning, Cleo Tomlinson, Keith May, Calum Neil, Keren Hannyngton, Kim Milnthorpe. Several are wearing gags as they were not given a slot to speak by HDC

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Athletes, coaches and parents last week urged councillors to retain indoor athletics facilities at a new Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

Horsham District Council has approved a new £12.3m facility next to the indoor bowls centre, which will be retained, but the focus for speakers at Wednesday’s meeting was the indoor running track known as the tube as it is not being replaced.

Horsham Blue Star Harriers’ Calum Neil, 17, from Broadbridge Heath, was one of those not given a slot to speak by the council, but explained beforehand how he would not have come second in the national champions in the pole vaulting under 17 category without the tube.

Cleo Tomlinson, who did speak and is a member of HBSH under 13s, described how the facility made a ‘vital’ difference to their training.

She competes in high jump, long jump, sprinting, and middle distance and wants to reach the Olympics.

She added: “One day your children or grandchildren could also benefit by using the tube and could also lead to them doing many great things.

“I therefore urge Horsham District Council to at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities and options which could allow the tube to remain open.’’

Jade Lally, winner of a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in discus last year, explained how she relied heavily on the tube, and aims to compete at the Olympic Games in Rio next year.

Jonathan Chowen (Con, Cowfold, Shermanbury and West Grinstead), cabinet meber for leisure and culture, said his priority was to protect the outdoor running track, while the tube was more of a regional and specialist facility. He added: “It’s too great a burden for this authority to bear alone.”

He continued: “This is not the end of the consultation with the wider community. We will continue to consult and colloborate.”

The decision comes more than four years since HDC announced plans to demolish BBHLC and not provide a replacement.

Godfrey Newman (LDem, Forest) said: “I’m sorry to say it’s not the council’s finest day because there were so many changes. The winners of this are the users and the residents of the district who put sufficient pressure on the council.”

Christine Costin (LDem, Trafalgar) described the situation four years ago as an ‘absolute calamity’, but praised Mr Chowen for bringing it all together in a rational discussion.

After the meeting Paul Kornycky, chairman of the BBHLC Joint User Group, said: “It is pleasing that HDC have voted unanimously to invest this significant sum into a new district leisure centre and I congratulate Jonathan Chowen in securing this valued commitment.

“I would personally like to thank the community of users and residents for their unwavering support over the past 4 years.

“In my view the origin of this ‘struggle’ was the abject failure of HDC to secure the further 2Ha of ‘recreation land’ to readily enable the leisure centre’s relocation, as required by Statement 12 of the West of Horsham (WoH) Masterplan.

“Securing that would then have enabled the overall site to be sold for in excess of £20m thereby generating ample funds for a modern like-for-like replacement, as well as a significant payment into the council’s capital reserves.”

He said the proposed loss of the indoor athletics provision remained a concern and while it was moving to hear five statements by five affected athletes coaches and parents, he felt disappointed the chairman had restricted the number of speakers.

He added: “BJUG stands ready and willing to work with HDC to explore the feasibility of possible remedies, as the design phase gets underway next year.”

SPEECHES

Keith May, chairman of Horsham Blue Star Harriers:

“My name is Keith May and I am Chairman of Horsham Blue Star Harriers. In 1984 the then council members and the officers of the council had the foresight and vision to have included in the new leisure centre at Broadbridge Heath and Indoor athletic facility, known as the Tube.

“This facility was then extended thanks to funds from Sports England, the county athletics association and the Club, with heating added later thanks to funds from UK Athletics.

“Although built for athletics this facility has been used for many other activities, including archery, cricket, trampolining, for children’s parties and for various activities for the Over 50 Club.

“The building of the track and the Tube has seen our membership grow from approximately 100 members to well over 200, and the closur of it would have a tremendous impact on the future growth of the Club.

“The expected increase in use, as well as the many extra sports that have been suggested that can take place in the new leisure centre, raises some doubts as to whether all these activities can actually be accommodated at the peak times of use. We have already been told that we would not be able to have use of the whole Sports Hall, only half, which would restrict our activities.

“Horsham District Council has always been very supportive of the Club and athletics in general, for which we have always been very grateful, and we realise that without this support we would not even have the track.

“However, we see the Tube as a facility that would enhance and compliment the whole leisure complex on the site and make it something of which Horsham could justly be proud.

“I therefore ask that the Council at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities and the options which would allow the Tube to remain open.”

Dave Ingram, coach:

“My name is David Ingram and as a junior, senior and now as a veteran athlete I have used the Tube for the past 23 years.

“I started coaching 10 years ago and now coach 5 different groups including a disability athletics group known as Reaching Higher Athletics for HDC. On a weekly basis I travel from Brighton 5 times per week to work with 170 children from across the Horsham district.

“These athletes are aged between 5 and 18 years old. All the groups are expanding and I believe this is simply because of the indoor facility which we can use when the weather is too cold or too wet to train outside.

“I am convinced that without the availability of such a useful facility most of the athletes would likely stop the sport altogether. This point is made more clear by my Brighton group (who don’t have an indoor training facility), which, despite running the group since the start of my coaching career, attendance is only half of that in the smallest of my Horsham groups and this number falls even further in the winter months.

“I also coach Pole Vault every week where we are indoors for most of the year and alongside other Pole Vault groups, vaulting takes place four nights a week. Over the years there have been numerous county and national pole vaulters from within the Horsham district many of whom have been inspired by Crawley’s Nick Buckfield who used the Tube regularly for 7

years in his build up to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and in becoming British record holder.

“With the nearest indoor facility over an hour away in Sutton - it is my firm belief that closing the tube would undermine Horsham grass-roots athletics altogether.

“In all my time training or working at Broadbridge Heath leisure centre I have not had one complaint or comment about the age or condition of the tube, moreover everybody is extremely grateful and sometimes surprised to find such a fantastic facility tucked away outside Horsham.

“I therefore urge Horsham District Council at least to look at ways and investigate the possibilities which could allow the Tube to remain open.”

Kim Milnthorpe, athletics coach:

“My name is Kim Milnthorpe and I have been an unpaid volunteer athletics coach and Team Manager at Horsham Blue Star Harriers for 10 years. I oversee the coaching of the 50 Under 13 athletes and individually coach a several athletes aged from 10 to 20 years old - 10 of these athletes are ranked in the top 50 in the UK for their age group. I have used the Tube consistently 3 times a week since I began coaching and using it for high jump, weights sessions, Sportshall athletics, long jump and hurdles. We invariably train directly after or before other users such as archery, cricket trampolining or children’s Saturday parties.

“The Tube is a unique indoor facility, unparalleled in the county and indeed the south coast. Numerous technical events can be coached due to the equipment and athletics specific areas it contains. It is also an important resource during the winter allowing continuous training whatever the weather. Having use of the Tube has given Horsham top ranking athletes in the UK something I think we should all be very proud of.

“Without the Tube our athletes and coaches won’t get to rub shoulders with elite athletes and national coaches who share the space with us on a weekly basis. We’ll be vying for space in a generic Sportshall and I believe we will lose athletes to other clubs and sports.

“This unique and inspiring facility and the atmosphere it creates won’t be replaced by a Sportshall. The Tube can be easily adapted and utilized by any sport or event and I feel it should be celebrated rather than demolished, why throw away a golden opportunity to develop this treasure and promote an outstanding sports environment in our town?

“I therefore urge Horsham District Council at least to look at ways and investigate the possibilities which could allow the Tube to remain open.”

Steve King, coach:

I have been a regular user of the Tube since it was first opened. During the last 25 years it has helped develop athletes I have coached to go to the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Paralympics as well as a host of other international meetings.

“Having a dedicated indoor space enables technical training to take place all year. Many local tracks put field event facilities into moth balls during the winter; it is during this out of season period that the major technical and tactical changes take place for athletes so not having a weather proof environment would have a devastating effect on preparation.

“The Tube has always been a democratic environment with elite and beginners side by side sharing the space. Because of this, and an open attitude to shared ideas and coaching it has been inspirational for youngsters to work in this environment.

“There is nothing similar this side of the M25 and many people travel many miles to use this asset. They may not all be Horsham residents but the fact that they go to a considerable effort shows how vital they view these facilities.”

Jade Lally, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist:

“My name is Jade Lally and I have been Britain’s number 1 discus thrower for the last 5 years.

“My career highlight to date is a Commonwealth Games bronze medal in Glasgow last year. My next aim is to represent GB at the Rio Olympics next year. My performances now, at international level are the result of many years of hard work, dedication, support and coaching from a superb coach and a love of the sport.

“I first started athletics when I was 14 in Wimbledon. But on finding a coach, Andy Neal and a good training environment here in Horsham, at 28 I am still here- and owe much of my success to that training environment.

“I rely heavily on the Tube for training. I use it for technical throwing, med ball exercises, weight lifting, plyometrics, Pilates, wall bars and the gymnastic equipment to name a few.

“These things quite simply cannot be done outside on the track in the country we live in and the weather it regularly brings. “Technical athletic events i.e. ALL the jumps and throws are particularly difficult to do outside in the rain/ wind/ ice and snow. Pole vault is an absolute no go. 

“I use the tube day in and day out and witness the range of people who use it. It is not only athletes who benefit from this multi-purpose facility, but athletes and coaches from throughout the county training on a regular basis and share knowledge. As a personal trainer, I am fortunate to bring clients into the tube. They use pieces of equipment they wouldn’t normally have access to. “These include Olympic bars and heavy bumper plates. A place to learn how to lift and drop the bar safely (something that isn’t currently allowed in gyms). We also use the high jumps mats and sand pit to learn how to jump without loading the joints.

“I have trained from school level to Olympic level using the tube. During this time 2 of my training partners have also reached the Commonwealth Games and Winter Olympics primarily because of the training we have been able to undertake during the winter months in this specialist facility.

“I am very grateful to have been able to use the Tube throughout my career without sounding too pessimistic, without it, I WILL need to leave Horsham.

On a weekly basis I mix with young athletes and hope I am an inspiration.  I therefore urge Horsham District Council to at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities and options which could allow the tube to remain open.”

Cleo Tomlinson, athlete:

Hello, my name is Cleo Tomlinson and I compete for Horsham Blue Star Harriers under 13’s.I do a wide range of events such as High Jump, Long Jump, Sprinting, Middle Distance and I am part of the Under 13 girls relay team, who hold the club record for the 4 by 100m relay with a time of 54.9 seconds.

“I have competed in many competitions such as, The Tom Pink Relays, the Under 13 girls Sussex Pentathlon, Youth Development League Matches, Open Meetings, and the Horsham Indoor Sprints at The Tube.

“I use the Tube up to 3 times a week at the moment, where I can do circuits, sprinting, use the Long Jump and High Jump facilities and more in a safe and covered environment.

“My Crawley competitors have told me that during the winter, practice for events like High Jump stops, as the mats are closed till Spring!

“We are lucky that we can practice all year round, and I think that is why my team mate Ella Hannyngton set a new High Jump League and County record of 1.58m which also saw her go to the top of the UK rankings.

“One day I would love to compete at the Olympics and if The Tube is no longer available to train in, myself and all the athletes at Blue Star Harriers may not be able to reach the level they are able to achieve.

“Without the tube where will we be able to train in the winter? Where will we do circuits? The nearest indoor track from Horsham is at Sutton which is a massive 30 miles away! How will everyone be able to make it down to Sutton 2 to 3 times a week and sometimes even more?! 

“As you can probably tell The Tube is a vital resource to us and makes a huge difference to our performance. And it’s not just us that use the tube, it is used by other sporting clubs like archery, cricket, trampolining and the Sussex Athletics Squad that I am also part of.

“One day your children or grandchildren could also benefit by using the Tube and could also lead to them doing many great things. I therefore urge Horsham District Council to at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities and options which could allow the tube to remain open. Thank you.”

Calum Neil, athlete:

“My name is Calum Neil and I am a member of Horsham Blue Star Harriers. I am currently ranked second in the United Kingdom for the Pole Vault in the Under 17 age group. I was second in both the National Championships and the All England Schools Championships and gained selection to represent English Schools in an International match.

“I started Pole Vaulting when I was just 11 years old and thanks to the coaching and the ability to be able to train in the Indoor facility at Broadbridge Heath I have been able to progress to the level I am at today. The Indoor facility has been of vital importance in my development as a pole vaulter, as it is not possible to vault outdoors in the winter months. I feel that it is important to retain the indoor facility to enable other young athletes the opportunity to achieve what I have achieved, and I look forward to many more national standard pole vaulters coming from Horsham.

Melanie Anning, parent:

“This year my 14-year-old daughter - Amber Anning - won two National titles, broke a European and three UK records. She ended the year as World Youth lead over 300m and tops the UK rankings in three events. She asked me to let you know that the Tube has played a major role in her successful season.

“At least twice a week - term time - Amber makes a 62 mile round trip, travelling from school in Brighton by bus, rail and taxi to train at the Tube. It enables her to beat our infamous British climate and receive high quality technical training throughout the year for High Jump, Long Jump, Shot, Triple Jump, Hurdles and Sprints. It makes all the difference having the option of training inside.

“Amber’s been training at the Tube for two years. It’s a big Family commitment to get her there, but that’s what motivated athletes do. We are so lucky to have this facility in Sussex.

“Athletics might only receive prominence on our screens during summer but it’s an all year sport and it’s over winter that athletes - like Amber - do a lot of the hard work that will tak them through to the track season.

“From Jess Ennis in Sheffield and Christine Ohuruogu and Greg Rutherford at Lee Valley ALL of our successful Olympians have benefitted from indoor facilities.

“If anything the council should think about extending the tube into a 60m track – advertise it more widely to schools – and bring indoor athletics competitions in here during winter and spring. Can you imagine how exciting it would be for even more local kids to discover that they can run on a track, jump into a sand pit or learn to hurdle in winter without getting wet or cold?

“In summary Amber said the following. ‘I want to win a Gold medal at the Olympics. To make this a reality I need the Tube so that I can continue working hard even when it’s winter and frosty and the outdoor track is closed due to health and safety. IF you knock it down you’ll be depriving young athletes like me, from all over Sussex, of the opportunity to fly’.”

Keren Hannyngton, parent:

My name is Keren Hannyngton and my daughter Ella has competed for Horsham Blue Star Harriers for three years. She is currently ranked number 1 in the UK as an Under 13 in both hurdles and high jump.

“I have no doubt that her success is down to two contributory factors: Excellent support and coaching, an ability to train all year round in the tube especially for two events which require specific technical training which can best be achieved with indoor winter training.

“If the Tube is no longer available, I have no doubt that her performance will be severely impacted.  The indoor tube facility allows her to continue her training whatever the weather – training is never cancelled which allows for continued development, especially during the winter, without disruption.

“She has been selected to be part of the Sussex County Under13 Athletics Squad for the last two years. They meet four times over the winter in the tube – I don’t know where this training will be held if the tube no longer exists. The County Squad training provides opportunity for young athletes to try our different events including pole vault and high jump and receive expert coaching which again includes events which benefit from indoor training since training is now weather dependent.

“The Horsham Blue Stars Indoor Sprints & Hurdles competition series are also held in the tube in Jan/Feb and are the only such indoor competition in the county and south coast area. They are definitely ones of its kind in Sussex. The events attract athletes from across the county and are particularly useful when going up a hurdles height and help athletes get ready for the early outdoor season. Where can these take place if the tube is demolished?

“There is no equivalent provision anywhere in Sussex or the south coast.

“In communications with the council I was disappointed with their comments that other thriving Sussex athletics clubs function with no indoor facility – they have failed to appreciate that talented athletes from across the county all come to the tube to train!

“If this precious and unique facility is demolished, we will personally feel let down and I therefore urge Horsham District Council to at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities and options which could allow the Tube to remain open.”

Elspeth Turner, England Athletics:

“My name is Elspeth Turner and I work for England Athletics. I am also a volunteer coach, official and athlete for Horsham Blue Star.

“I work with 22 local authorities and 85 athletics clubs, who would give their right arm to have a facility like the Tube which puts Horsham ’on the map’, attracts international athletes and expert coaches, hosts the County Athletics Squad, is the centre for Athletics Coach Education in the South East, and allows young athletes to rub shoulders with an aspiring Olympian. I’d like to ask Councillors this evening if they really know what happens in the Tube, what life experiences it offers to REAL people and if they know what they are potentially destroying.

“A local Councillor said that the Tube’s demise will simply mean that “only a handful of pole aulters who will lose out on winter training”. Nine years ago from my office in BBHLC I created what is now a nationally recognised programme called the Flying Coach Scheme.

“Our own HBS PV coach Mick Cole ‘flew’ around the county of Sussex delivering PV sessions.

“He was inspired by Nick Buckfield a Crawley athlete who trained twice weekly in the Tube for 8 years prior to competing in the Olympic Games in Atlanta and becoming British Record holder. 10 years later PV is thriving in Sussex with x athletes ranked in the top 8 – with Calum here number 2 in the country. Are we punching above our weight? You bet. I wonder why?

“But PV is not the whole story. The Tube is invaluable for technical training as described by Jade but more than this happens. In addition to trampolining, archery, cricket, tennis and children’s parties we coach athletics to all ages. Athletics – running, jumping, throwing - the fundamental skills required for progress in any sport. That’s what we unselfishly do in athletics – train them for other sports. In just the last 5 years, 4 young Blue Stars have gone on to represent Sussex and England in football, rugby, and triathlon.

“People in Athletics are the most selfless people you will meet – dedicating thousands of volunteer hours to shape young people. Instilling in them the values of hard work, perseverence, personal achievement, respect for others - the very qualities we want for people in our community.

“I urge Councillors to listen, understand and admire the spirit of these people who have campaigned from 2011 to keep this facility open. Please at least look at ways and investigate the possibilities which could allow the Tube to remain open.”

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