ONE of the biggest public meetings in Littlehampton for decades underlined the strength of support for two of the town’s prized assets, the Windmill Entertainment Centre and Swimming and Sports Centre.
More than 150 people packed into the town council’s New Millennium Chamber to voice their opposition to proposals which could see both venues disappear.
Arun District Council’s cabinet member responsible for leisure, Paul Dendle, was given a grilling over the plans, among the proposals in a draft leisure strategy prepared for the council by consultants.
But Mr Dendle insisted no decisions had been taken by Arun at this stage, and he encouraged people to make their feelings known through the consultation on the strategy, which ends tomorrow (Friday).
Among the groups attending Tuesday’s meeting were Arun Youth Aqua Centre, Arun Dolphins, Littlehampton Swimming Club, Mewsbrook Park Short Mats Bowls Club, Littlehampton Table Tennis Club, Stage-Door Theatre Company, Littlehampton Operatic Society and Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society.
The meeting was chaired by David Warne, who is also chairman of the East Beach Residents’ Association.
Alan Moss, chairman of Stage-Door, said: “The Windmill provides a vital service to the community – not only to residents in the town but the wider community of the district.
“It’s an integral part of our community and we need to make sure it stays that way for future generations.”
Dr Tim Kimber, whose company T J Productions staged Calendar Girls at the Windmill last month, urged Arun to see the wider benefits provided by the venue.
He said: “It is the only theatre supported by Arun. Does Arun really want to be known as a council that does not support the arts in any way?
“And this isn’t about throwing money at somebody’s hobby – there are many children and young people who are gainfully occupied in performance who would have nowhere else to go. There are many adults equally gainfully occupied. Isn’t this ‘active leisure’?”
Gill Waller, a Rustington resident for 46 years and a member of Littlehampton Players’ Operatic Society for four years, said: “Do we really want visitors to the area to go and spend their money in Bognor? Because that’s what’s going to happen.
“The proposed plans in the consultation seem ridiculous. We have got super facilities in the town - the seafront, the theatre and the swimming pool. It would be idiotic to lose some of these.”
Chris Cooper, chairman of Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society, said that young people were “the hidden victims” of the plans to potentially close the theatre. He said some were “crying out for an opportunity to perform on stage”.
Tyndall Jones said: “I understand that Arun is strapped for cash but it has reserves of £31m. We’re only asking for £50,000 to help purchase new digital equipment for the cinema.” He added: “They’re biting off more than they can chew if they close this much-loved theatre.”
There is a final chance to view a display on the leisure strategy before the consultation period ends. Tonight it is on view at Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre from 5-7pm and tomorrow at the Arun Civic Centre, in Maltravers Road, Littlehampton and at the Arundel Library.