MORE than 100 protesters have swarmed outside Horsham District Council’s headquarters to voice their outrage over the proposed demolition of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
This evening emotional customers of the much-loved venue chanted ‘save our club’ as they thrust signs reading ‘The End Is Nye’ at passing traffic on North Street.
The slogan was a reference to the leader of HDC Robert Nye who is championing the proposal.
Mr Nye told the County Times the demolition is a ‘golden opportunity’ to extract full value from the site - a significant capital sum to invest in other leisure facilities as well as perhaps £1.5m rental income a year, the equivalent of 17% of the council tax.
But athletes, parents and youngsters are among the protesters who gathered from 4.30pm - and they did not seem impressed by the financial arguments.
“It’s appalling,” said Tony Johnson, chairman of Horsham Joggers, “it’s ‘a golden opportunity’ to grab £25 million and ignore the need for leisure facilities in the district.
“To demolish it with a very rushed decision with no real plan for what’s going to happen in the future is just appalling.
“The council’s report is a joke. It’s poorly constructed and only has one purpose which is to try an justify the closure.
He added: “The Blue Star Harriers would be completely stuffed and it would change Horsham Joggers. I hope they decide not to close the centre and instead invest some money into it and keep it as the popular club it is for the whole community.”
Lawrence Roy, a member of Horsham Joggers, added: “I feel very sad about this.
“We’re trying to keep people fit and here we find ourselves in a scenario where the council are trying to close a popular facility. It’s a great shame, very sad, and very disappointing.”
Staff at the headquarters told the County Times they are expecting more than 250 people to attend the meeting and have set up a video link to The Capitol Theatre next door in a bid to accommodate the overwhelming amount of protesters.
Extra security has been put in place as a precautionary safety measure.
Keith May, Chairman of Horsham Blue Star Harriers - the town’s oldest athletics club - said: “We’ve got nowhere to go if they close it - it’s devastating.
“The council have not consulted with us at all with this issue.
“What can you say? Everyone uses this club - kids, the disabled - it will have a huge impact on the whole of Sussex and not just the Blue Stars.
“I want the outcome of tonight for them to say they are not going to recommend it to the full council.”
Drivers slowed down and honked their horns in support of the action against proposals which have been branded ‘disgusting’, ‘farcical’ and ‘completely crackers’ by residents.
Jessica Costen, junior athlete and user of the popular Time Out kids’ club, said: “We came here tonight because we want to stay at Broadbridge Heath.
“It’s so much fun and it would change my lifestyle because we won’t be in contact with Blue Stars and we all need to keep fit and healthy.”
Discussions on the club’s future are not due to finish until later this evening.
Updates from the meeting will follow.
The County Times would like to hear your opinion - comment below, email firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Twitter @wscountytimes or on Facebook page Horsham News and Views and join the debate.