LETTER: Flagship centre is envy of others

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I am pleased that Horsham District Council listened to the public’s protests when the decision was taken to close Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre at the end of 2012.

It is great news that our councillors are now proposing to build new leisure facilities for our ever expanding local population but I am very concerned that HDC is looking to Westrock to advise them on the new development.

Westrock is a private real estate investment company and concerned with increasing its own profits. What experience has it in building leisure centres and sports facilities?

HDC has already allowed the same company to dictate issues associated with the redevelopment of the West End of our town centre. Am I the only person worried about the domination of Westrock in two major developments in Horsham? Perhaps the recent headline in the County Times should have been ‘Westrock power triumphs’ instead of ‘People power triumphs’.

I appreciate that councillors are ordinary men and women elected by us to do their best for the inhabitants of Horsham District and they cannot be experts in everything so need to seek advice. Surely they should look for guidance and advice from the independent official organisations, which run the various different sports, about the provision of suitable facilities for each activity.

I am a bowler and have been a member of Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club since its inception in 1995. Many of the council’s constituents are also bowlers and I know of at least another six who live in this small road.

Horsham District Council built the existing building occupied by Horsham District Indoor Bowls Club which is located in the area now referred to as the ‘Quadrant’. For almost 20 years the club has leased the premises for approximately £1,000 per week and has also paid for all repairs, decorating and improvements. In just the past couple of years the club has spent many thousands of pounds replacing the lighting and the bowling surface.

The bowls club was told that it would be able to remain in the current premises and an extension to the lease until 2025 had even been discussed.

Then the council changed its mind and we were told we could remain in the current premises until the new facilities were built. That was when HDC favoured Option 7A after spending thousands of pounds on a study to determine the needs of the public.

We were then shocked to learn from HDC cabinet member Jonathan Chowen that our councillors have changed their minds yet again. Indoor bowls may now disappear from the district altogether. There may be no provision for bowls in the proposed ‘destination venue’.

We are told that there could be space for ‘either indoor bowls or an ice rink’. The club also learned that in the new proposals the existing indoor bowls club would be demolished before the leisure centre in order to clear the site for the new sports centre leaving the district without an indoor bowls facility.

Can we be sure that the new centre will be built immediately or will the construction of the proposed hotel, apartments, restaurants and retail outlets take precedence? What guarantees will Horsham residents have that leisure and sports facilities will be a priority?

Can we trust our councillors to put residents’ needs first or will Westrock’s demands take priority as they have in the town centre?

HDC currently has a well-run bowls centre that is the envy of many towns and the largest in Sussex and something of a flagship for the sport. What are our councillors thinking of?

The population of Horsham is set to increase substantially in the next few years. People are living longer and have more leisure time than ever before. Our bowls club provides a wonderful sports facility of the highest standard and is used by county, national, club and recreational bowlers.

It provides a leisure activity for countless people, many of whom have lost their partners and enjoy the company of other mature and like-minded people. The club also has a thriving junior section with players as young as nine years of age enjoying the game at weekends progressing through various grading sessions.

Disabled bowlers such as the visually impaired, the Alzheimer’s Society, Stroke Association and Zippers (people who have undergone heart surgery) regularly use the club too. We also have special wheelchairs for bowlers to use on the bowling green. Our club is an all inclusive facility.

What will happen to the club and all those people who depend on it for social and recreational purposes? What else is on offer locally to such a wide range of adults and children?

The whole club is run by members on a voluntary basis. We provide a service to the community and an income for HDC and would like confirmation that our club has a future in Horsham.

Our councillors need to take a long and careful look at what we have in Horsham Indoor Bowls Club before taking any decision to knock it down before the new centre is built.

Our councillors need to secure a binding contract with the developers stating that the leisure centre will be built first before any demolition or other building takes place.

CAROLE JAMES

Quail Close, Horsham