Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to be in the Council Chamber at Horsham District Council when Jade Lalley was presented with a certificate to mark her medal winning performance at the Commonwealth Games. It was a lovely occasion and Jade received warm applause for her wonderful achievement.
I found it rather ironic that after the presentation the council meeting went on to receive a report on plans for the redevelopment of the Broadbridge Heath Quadrant, which includes the leisure centre where Jade trains. The report contained a list of the facilities likely to be provided in the replacement leisure centre.
Notable for their absence from the list were two large, multi-purpose sports hall areas; one known as ‘The Table Tennis Hall’ and the other an indoor athletics training area known as ‘The Tube’.
In the past Jade has publicly said that the indoor training area is extremely important for her personally and also for all the other aspiring athletes who can use it to continue training when cold, wet and windy conditions outside would otherwise make training impossible.
It’s not only successful local athletes who put the tube and the table tennis hall to very good use. Both these areas are regularly in great demand from ordinary members of the public; from youngsters enjoying a workout on the trampolines to their parents and grandparents keeping fit and healthy with exercise classes and, yes, ever-popular table tennis too.
Councillor Jonathan Chowen, who is responsible for seeing through the redevelopment of the leisure centre, said that current users of the centre seem to go to him with a ‘shopping list’ of wants, as though we are making unreasonable and unaffordable demands on the council’s coffers.
Not so! With the money the council will make on the redevelopment of this huge site (which they own) they can well afford to ensure that the new leisure centre will provide facilities at least equivalent to the existing ones. Indeed, central government guidelines on planning (the National Planning Policy Framework) provide significant protection for recreation, sports and leisure facilities, generally requiring ‘equivalent or better’ re-provision.
It is so important for the health and well-being of people across Horsham District that such facilities are enhanced and not diminished and downgraded. Indeed, Simon Stevens the new NHS chief, has just published a report stating that in future much more emphasis must be placed on helping people to keep fit and healthy to tackle the growing problem of obesity and other debilitating conditions.
With changing demographics and an ageing population it has never been more important to keep people fit and active for as long as possible, thus reducing the pressure on local health and care services.
It beggars belief that this Conservative-run district council would blatantly flout the government’s guidelines on both planning and health and well-being in the area.
Dorking Road, Warnham