“LET’S everyone behave themselves, no rioting or anything like that,” warned Horsham district councillor Jonathan Chowen as angry protesters gathered to quiz him over the future of Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.
Around 80 campaigners including many from the joint user group (JUG) swarmed to The Capitol yesterday evening (May 16).
JUG protester Paul Kornycky slammed the council’s four new-build options, telling Mr Chowen and the panel of Horsham District Council (HDC) staff: “You should be ashamed of yourselves to put out a consultation that is a complete sham.”
In today’s County Times details of the JUG’s own so-called People’s Option are published, produced in response to HDC’s ongoing consultation about what to replace Broadbridge Heath Leisure centre with.
Paul continued: “There’s a real issue here with the credibility of the council. What I object to is the situation you have put us in whereby members of the public can not vote for an option they want.
“Since December last year the JUG said we don’t live in a dream world, but if you had put some reasonable options in front of us then, of course we would still be having this debate, but we wouldn’t feel as though your minds are already made up.”
To which Chowen responded: “I was told to clear my mind a long time ago back in January February when we had to start again. But obviously as the consultation goes on the mind is still open but its beginning to get some idea of where to go if shove came to push.”
The cabinet member for Arts, Heritage and Leisure stressed that the public consultation is taking place ‘against this financial background’.
“I don’t think a lot of you are but I’m absolutely terrified with what is happening in Europe at the moment,” he added - a comment which was met with fierce groans and heckling.
“Rubbish!” cried one member of the audience.
Gym users, parents and members of various sporting clubs all had a chance to quiz the panel from 6pm until 7.30pm.
After waiting patiently to ask a question, Corina Gibson said: “I’m a member of Broadgebridge Heath Leisure Centre’s gym which is why I could hold my hand up for so long.
“Please don’t think of us as units, this gym has changed my life and the lives of people like me. It’s a community you’re breaking up.”
A common concern raised was the possibility of losing the athletic tracks.
One member of the Horsham Joggers said: “You talk about improvement, but if you leave us without a running track there will be no athletics facilities at all. Is that improvement?
“You’re of the mind that you can use the K2 track. To go over there you’ve Crawley AC and other clubs - it would be more like the M25 than the K2. It would just be too crowded.”
Ray Dawe, leader of HDC explained: “In simple terms we, as councillors, we have to decide if we are happy to spend an extra £2m when we have reports saying they aren’t necessary. The money could go somewhere else in the district.”