Petitioners welcome pool proposal amid ‘missed opportunity’ warning

What the new Littlehampton leisure centre could look like SUS-150922-174613001
What the new Littlehampton leisure centre could look like SUS-150922-174613001

CAMPAIGNERS have welcomed recommendations to build a new pool and leisure centre on Littlehampton seafront – but is it a ‘missed opportunity’?

Consultants working on behalf of Arun District Council believe rebuilding the Sea Road facility on site is a better option than moving it to Daisyfields, in the north of the town.

The recommendation, to be discussed by councillors today, has been welcomed by petitioners who wanted the new centre to be built on the seafront.

But Labour councillor for Wick with Toddington Mike Northeast believed it would be a ‘missed opportunity’.

He said: “What we should have been looking for is things outside of the box and bigger opportunities and one would have been a leisure complex for the town.

“That means things like a cinema, theatre and eateries that go with it because that is the type of thing that people leave Littlehampton to go to other towns for.

“That is what we could achieve and still can with North Littlehampton.”

Mr Northeast said public consultation could have been improved, asking whether residents would prefer a better leisure centre built elsewhere.

He supports a site which has not been considered by Arun, which only considered the current site and one other.

But on the other side of the debate, lead petitioner Terry Ellis said the recommendation would please the 6,800 people who had supported a new centre on the seafront.

He said: “It is very good news and what was wanted as we wanted to keep the leisure facilities on the front.

“We are really grateful that Arun have allowed us to have a new pool. They don’t have to but they are.”

Councillors on the leisure, tourism and infrastructure working group will consider the report by the Sports Consultancy.

Further details would be presented to cabinet in December, should the working group support the in-principle preference for keeping the facility in Sea Road.

The consultants’ report states that while a move to the Daisyfields site may attract more customers, the risks of the site are higher.

Uncertainly over the deliverability of a link road, along with concerns over contaminated land, have resulted in the report favouring the redevelopment of the current site.

But Mr Northeast has warned that the proposed positioning of the new leisure centre may still allow the front to be redeveloped for housing – a key concern of petitioners.

In response, an Arun District Council spokesman said the idea of a leisure complex along the lines of Mr Northeast’s idea was not considered as part of the latest report.

She added the north Littlehampton site he mentioned was previously considered ‘unviable’ in a report to cabinet last year, due to the high potential cost of acquiring land.

She said: “The Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre detailed feasibility study does not consider any capital receipts from housing development at this location. 

“A number of sites were considered in the original study and cabinet agreed to a detailed feasibility on only two sites.”

The report has been welcomed by Liberal Democrat councillor Dr James Walsh.

He said: “It’s a tremendous outcome for the community campaign and petition and was the backbone of several of our election campaigns in Littlehampton.

“It’s pretty clear the community view has prevailed.”