A PETITION signed by nearly 7,000 residents against moving the Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre and redeveloping the site for housing has been submitted.
Petitioners fear Arun District Council will favour relocating the centre, in Sea Road, to the Daisyfields site and want ‘genuine’ consultation to take place on the issue.
The council insist no decision has been made and will discuss a consultants’ report into the viability of the options in public next month.
Speaking after the petition was submitted at the meeting of full council last Wednesday, Littlehampton Community Charter group spokesman Terry Ellis said: “We are grateful to have a new swimming pool but we would not like the town changed in character.
“What worries us is that if they do move it they will sell site to the highest bidder for housing and it will be like a gated community.”
The centre’s future was on the agenda later in the meeting, as the Liberal Democrats tabled a motion calling for residents’ views to be given equal weight to the financial implications expected to be included in the consultants’ report.
Lib Dem deputy leader Dr James Walsh said: “I know we have been told it’s going to be happening anyway but it is purely to put on record that this council takes itself to be a listening council, believes in localism and listening to local people in the whole of the Arun district.”
Instead of discussing the motion, however, the ruling Conservative group was accused of ‘stifling’ debate after voting the motion down before it was debated.
The Lib Dems had altered the wording of the motion at the last minute and required a majority vote to temporarily suspend the council’s constitution to allow it to proceed.
They were defeated by 31 votes to 15.
Dr Walsh said: “We expected to lose the debate but to use a political device to stifle a debate is an outrageous misuse of majority powers.”
Arun’s only Labour councillor, Mike Northeast, said the Tories were ‘hiding behind procedure’.
“They have got to stop ruling with a rod of iron and recognise there are other people in this equation that need to be listened to,” he said.
“I thought it was a disgraceful thing that they did and it stifled debate. If we are there representing the public we should be able to debate motions such as this so the ruling party makes decisions on behalf of the electorate.”
Paul Dendle, Conservative councillor and cabinet member for leisure and amenities, hit back,arguing the debate was ‘premature’.
He said: “I’m very happy to debate it and I’m sure there will be debate. Was it right for the Conservatives to use a technical moment to defer the motion? Well If the Lib Dems had got their wording right at the beginning they could have.”
On the petition, he added: “They are working on the assumption we are pushing to get the pool on the Daisyfields site rather than the existing site and of course we are waiting for the report which we should have in the next few days.”
Arun confirmed the consultants’ report had been received in August and a working group will discuss it on October 1.
The petition was handed in by three residents – Ulyssia Bayley, ten, Angela Tester, 63 and Kimberley Rollason, 39, in a bid to demonstrate it was signed by a range of people living and visiting Littlehampton.
Another petition, of 474 signatures, relating to protecting the Daisyfields site, was also submitted alongside the main petition.
Arun will officially respond to both in writing within ten working days.