LETTER: ‘Equivalent or better’ facilitiesat Broadbridge Heath?

Your letters
Your letters

At long last, there’s been some movement on the ongoing saga of the Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre.

From my point of view, as a regular user of the leisure centre on the excellent, twice weekly, 50+ Activity Days, the ‘Emerging Preferred Option’, as Horsham District Council is calling it, is something of a curate’s egg: Good in parts.

I’m delighted to see that they have decided to ‘do the right thing’ and provide a replacement for the very special Sensory Room and a Changing Places facility for disabled people.

Both these facilities had big question marks hanging over them, so it’s good to see the council has agreed to include them in plans for a new-build centre.

The enhanced gym facilities also look extremely good. I would have expected this because the gym is a money spinner, so it was always on the cards it would come out well in the revamping of the centre.

So much for the good parts of the curate’s egg. A couple of not-so-good things leapt out at me when looking at the ‘Indicative Plan’ for the new centre.

A major concern is that there’s no indication of tennis courts on the plan. The new building would sit squarely where the four tennis courts are now.

In the list of facilities planned for the new leisure centre there’s only a vague mention of ‘a multi-use games facility’; nothing to indicate where it’s to be and, importantly, what size it would be and what ‘multi-uses’ it would serve.

The existing tennis courts are used all year round, winter and summer, and play a very important part in the activities on 50+ days.

I do hope the council is not thinking of trying to opt out of central government’s strict National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states firmly that, in the event of redevelopment of sports and leisure facilities, ‘equivalent or better’ facilities must be provided.

Dr Roger Smith’s excellent letter in another context in last week’s paper highlights the importance of legal compliance with the NPPF. As he states, ‘Conformity is not discretionary’. In other words, it’s not a ‘pick ‘n mix’ affair where the council can comply with certain of its policies when it suits and ignore others when it doesn’t.

Also on the matter of tennis courts, Horsham District is sadly lacking the indoor tennis court provision recommended by Sport England. In its proposals for the new leisure centre the council has missed a golden opportunity to rectify this state of affairs.

Returning to the matter of NPPF compliance – I wonder how Horsham District Council can square the non-replacement of the indoor athletics facility (‘the Tube’) with its undoubted legal obligation to provide ‘equivalent or better’.

Added to that, I’m not convinced by their vague reference to continuing to ‘work with the two amateur dramatic groups which use the existing centre to help find them new premises’. I think HAODS and Theatre 48 deserve better than that.

SHEILA WHITE

Dorking Road, Warnham

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