A NEW leisure centre and sports hall in Littlehampton is a step closer after councillors endorsed proposals to build the facility on the seafront.
An Arun District Council working group backed recommendations in a consultancy report to build the new centre on the Sea Road site last night (Thursday, October 1).
The current site was preferred over a move to the north end of the town at the Daisyfields site, which had question marks over its deliverability.
River ward councillor Ian Buckland said: “I am very happy with this report. To move the pool to the north would be detrimental, not only to the seafront but also to local businesses that thrive from the use of the pool.
“The pool is in a prime location where it is.”
The working group, made up of 22 councillors from all political groups, were considering a report by the Sports Consultancy, which considered the viability of both sites.
The report followed the consultants’ view last year that refurbishing the existing centre was not financially viable.
Options with or without a new sports hall on both sites were explored, with estimated costs for each.
Option A – a new pool in Sea Road with a sports hall – could cost £15million. Consultants said all options were affordable.
The group heard that moving the centre to Daisyfields could generate more users of the facility but came with significant risks.
The council would have to purchase the land from West Sussex County Council, it was contaminated as it was a former landfill site and there were uncertainties about the delivery of a link road.
The council has committed to open the new centre by April 2019.
Cabinet member for leisure and amenities Paul Dendle said: “Originally the Daisyfields site had a number of attractions. It was closer to the areas of deprivation, closer to bus routes and a larger number of people.
“But we obviously listened to public opinion and to this committee before and then to the consultancy to look at the problems and the facts.
“I hope the committee comes to the conclusions of the report.”
While 21 of the councillors voted to support option A, Labour’s Mike Northeast voted against the majority.
He repeated his beliefs that a new centre within the planned North Littlehampton development would act as an ‘anchor’ for a cinema, theatre and eateries.
He claimed residents had not been properly consulted on all options, being asked if they wanted to see flats built on the current site instead of a variety of alternatives.
He said: “I think a serious trick has been missed, here and the North Littlehampton site has not been looked into properly. We should not be accepting this here tonight because the Daisyfields site was out of the picture years ago and we have wasted money looking at why we shouldn’t choose it.
“Let’s go back to the drawing board. Let’s get this right and let’s ask the people of Littlehampton what they would like to see.”
Keeping the current site was favoured by around 6,800 residents, who submitted a petition in support of redeveloping the site last month.
The working group’s recommendations will be considered by cabinet members, before progressing to full council for a final decision.
The working group’s meeting was initially adjourned for legal advice after disagreements over the process to elect the chairman.
Tory Trevor Bence was selected but not without protests from Lib Dem Dr James Walsh, who was angered by being blocked from nominating an alternative. Officers said they followed the constitution.