Using indoor athletics space to store garden maintenance equipment a ‘travesty’

Users and coaches in the indoor athletics facility in Broadbridge Heath pictured in late 2015
Users and coaches in the indoor athletics facility in Broadbridge Heath pictured in late 2015

Space used for indoor athletics could be turned into storage for lawnmowers and other equipment when a new leisure centre is built at Broadbridge Heath, according to users.

The existing facility is set to be demolished and a £12.3m replacement built by Horsham District Council, but while a six-court sports hall is set to be included the indoor athletics track, known as the tube, is not part of current proposals.

Since the building which includes the tube is due to be effectively severed from the leisure centre and halved in size, users have asked the council to keep the remaining space open so at least there is some space for indoor athletics, right next to the outdoor running track.

Paul Kornycky, chair of the BBHLC Joint User Group, said: “If you turn over 2,500 square metres of prime indoor athletics space to store some garden maintenance equipment it will be a travesty.

“The council will be a laughing stock if you do that and not give the athletes what’s already there or part of what’s already there.”

He explained to councillors last Wednesday night (June 29) that on a rainy evening such as the one they were experiencing, Horsham Blue Star Harriers would be using the tube to train.

Jonathan Chowen, deputy leader and cabinet member for culture and leisure at HDC, said the Harriers ‘should be out there enjoying their all-weather track’, and suggested if an all-weather track was not needed they could grass it over and save money.

He added: “We are still working with the athletics clubs and still designing what will be left of the corridor.”

But they saw using the remaining part of the tube as an ‘effective option for storing equipment’, and told users they could not ‘go back and keep harping on about things’.

He continued: “We can’t keep on revising plans, we have to make and keep on making decisions.”

Mr Kornycky had asked in his initial question why part of the tube could not be retained until the outdoor track is eventually relocated.

After the meeting he said: “It is beyond belief that HDC would want to open themselves to ridicule by not taking this opportunity to allow the athletes to continue to use this space, especially given the loss of the rest of the tube.

“Can’t they afford a shed (to properly house this equipment)? Don’t they see the value of ongoing provision of this space to help our local athletes develop, especially the juniors who can long jump, high jump and javelin there, especially in bad weather?

“Don’t they also see that this relieves the demand for sports hall space by the athletes at peak times when it would be better used by the badminton or basketball clubs?

“The council’s position on this is a complete joke and shows their abject lack of understanding and appreciation as to the good work of the volunteer coaches of the Horsham Blue Star Harriers (Athletics) Club.”

NEW SPORTS HALL

The other disagreement between the users and HDC revolves around the new six court sports hall, which is proposed to be configured in a 3x2 format, but the JUG has put forward the idea of a 6x1 layout as a way of better using the space for different clubs at the same time.

Sue Kornycky, a leisure centre user, asked why information showing that the council’s proposals could accommodate the activities had not been provided to users, and asked HDC to evaluate the 6x1 option with ‘at the table’ user input.

Mr Chowen replied: “We are satisfied the 3x2 configuration is absolutely the right layout for the centre.”

He explained that the 6x1 layout would add another £600,000 to project costs, and would not allow them to add another two courts to the hall if demand increased in the future.

But after the meeting Mr Kornycky requested information as to how the council had arrived at the £600,000 figure and on the information supplied suggested HDC had based its evaluation on so much extra space it amounted to an eight-court sports hall.

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