‘CONSULTATIONS are a con’ – that is the controversial view of one Arun cabinet member following the latest revelation about the future of the town’s swimming centre.
A leaked email sent by Arun District Council’s cabinet member for leisure and amenities, Paul Dendle, reveals that consultants have identified a new site for the Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre.
The consultants whittled down dozens of potential sites – including the current one at Sea Lane – and suggested the best area for a new £12m pool would be on Daisyfields, in Littlehampton. This could leave the current site at risk of having flats built on it.
No decision has yet been made, as it needs to be debated and approved by Arun, but if the green light was given it would go against the will of thousands who fought to keep the pool in Sea Lane.
Speaking about the consultation process, Mr Dendle said: “This is my own view and not that of my party and it’s a controversial one.
“But I feel the consultation system, introduced by Labour, gives people an unrealistic expectation.
“In my view, it is not fit for purpose. Councillors should be lobbied by residents and then make the ultimate decision after weighing up all the evidence. If they don’t like it, they can then vote us out.”
County, district and town councillor Dr James Walsh has now questioned the whole democratic process in Arun.
“Yet again, Arun’s cabinet have failed to listen to the will of the people,” he said. “They are forever getting it wrong.
“The Five Village’s application, for example, went through, despite huge public opposition.
“Something is wrong with the entire system.”
Mr Dendle said the town needed a new leisure centre. This would secure the future of the facility for the next 40 years, he claimed.
The current site of the pool could be redeveloped with a possible two or three-storey flat complex, he added.
“It’s my own view but I would also like to see Mewsbrook Park developed and expanded into a green corridor leading to the coast.”
He also said if this new site was agreed, it would benefit countless residents ‘living in deprived areas’ of the town.
“This is about securing the future of the swimming and sports centre for the long term,” he said. “The new site would have better transport links for those living in deprived areas of the town.
“We want to try and get people who are not fit enough or obese to use the right centre in the right place.”
He said no building work would realistically begin anytime before 2019 and that the current pool would only close once the new one was built.