ARUN’S cabinet member for leisure has come under fire for comments he made about campaigners’ efforts to preserve the current site of Littlehampton’s Swimming and Sports Centre.
On Thursday (July 24), councillor Paul Dendle vented his frustration about the campaigners’ work on his personal Facebook page – which could be openly viewed by anyone.
In his post, Mr Dendle said: “Who would be a councillor, kebab vans setting up in residential areas, old people protesting because we are trying to build a new £13m swimming centre (the old will do thank you very much even if it has to close in 10 years because it’s too expensive) fighting to save a nursery and a youth club, dog poo, parking tickets etc etc, at same time trying to start a new business and building a new house, very tired!!”
Councillor Emma Neno, the former mayor of Littlehampton and Conservative district councillor for Beach Ward, said she was shocked by Mr Dendle’s comments.
Speaking to the Gazette, Mrs Neno – whose ward encompasses the leisure centre – said: “I was very angry when I read it and completely shocked a cabinet member has written this.
“Firstly, I would like to know where he got the idea that it is all old people as it is a community petition and it is absolutely not all ‘old people’.
“It is also not about not wanting a new £13m leisure centre – it is about location and being opposed to any building along the seafront and selling off the land.”
She accused Mr Dendle of ‘predetermining’ his position in any future debate on the town’s leisure facility.
However, defending his comments, Mr Dendle said he would ‘not apologise for making the case for a new leisure centre’. He argued that social media was a form of democracy he used to engage with residents in his ward.
Mr Dendle said: “The debate regarding if we have a replacement swimming centre for the east of the district has, to a degree, been hi-jacked by a small vocal group of older users. I, by definition, am of pensionable age being 56, but I find in respect of this issue that the older users are being particularly selfish regarding plans for a new leisure centre.
“They do not take in to account the needs of the whole population and are arguing for the status quo to the detriment of the majority of the population. They have a lot of time on their hands whilst the working population are hard pressed to join the debate while they attempt to make ends meet, they do not have the luxury of joining the debate regarding a new centre but I hope they will get involved and make their views known.”