LETTER: Leisure centre

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I entirely agree with the recent comments of business reporter Oli Poole (Littlehampton Gazette, Thursday, May 21) regarding the questionable decision of Arun District Council to appoint costly outside consultants to advise, not only on the future of Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre, but also on the Area Plan in general.

After having already wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds of council taxpayers money on consultants since 2011, Arun District Council is once again wasting even more of our money on yet another firm of consultants to do virtually the same job.

This, despite the fact that Arun District Council has, within its premises in Maltravers Road, a planning department staffed by highly-qualified personnel who, one would assume, should be quite capable of advising on area planning matters.

Indeed, surely most people would think that it was part of their job to do just that!

Furthermore, I am at a loss to understand quite why, after having democratically invited the area residents to vote on alternative proposals for the future of the Littlehampton Leisure Centre, Arun District Council (supported by the county council) has decided to ignore the wishes of 70 per cent of the local residents (supported by the town council) who voted for the option of retaining the existing leisure centre in Sea Road, albeit with upgrading modifications and improvements.

As mentioned above, the overall majority of the population in this area would much prefer to retain the existing swimming pool and sports centre in Sea Road.

After all, the building itself is only just over 30 years old and is structurally sound and, in most people’s opinion, is comparatively modern and attractive looking, that is, apart from the unsightly moss-covered corrugated asbestos roof to the main two-storey and swimming pool block.

The pool itself is, in my opinion, quite beautiful with its natural timber framing and ceiling panelling, and attractive looking facing brick walls.

All so much warmer and nicer than some of the more recent structures, with their cold and clinical-looking, drab white-painted interiors.

Furthermore, the majority of people here would also much prefer the leisure centre to remain here in Sea Road because it is ideally located well away from the town centre and other traffic congested areas.

Also, it has ample vehicular parking and, being so near to the seafront, it is well away from any possible inland atmospheric pollution.

The alternative proposal presented by the consultants, and favoured by Arun District Council and the county council – to demolish the existing leisure centre in Sea Road and build a new larger facility to the north of Littlehampton (Daisyfield site) – is, in my opinion, totally illogical, both from a practical and financial point of view.

For instance, it is on record that the estimated cost of the above proposal would be in the region of £18 million, an enormous sum which would have to be “borrowed” by the council at the expense of the local council taxpayers!

I am no financial expert but I reckon that the proposal to retain and improve the existing leisure facility could be achieved for less than a third of the above sum.

As a keen supporter of the proposal to retain the existing leisure complex in Sea Road, and at no consultancy fee to the local council taxpayers, I would venture to suggest the following order of priorities for what I consider to be the most urgently needed additions and improvements to the existing premises.

Firstly, the urgent replacement of the “temporary” sun-standard sports dome, which is not only long past its useful life and fitness for purposes, but is also very expensive to maintain, energy wise, because of its lack of thermal insulation and natural lighting.

What is desperately needed is a new state-of-the-art all-purpose sports hall, ideally built onto the western end of the existing two storey block.

Ironically, such a proposal was made by Arun District Council some years ago but was sadly never implemented.

Secondly, the removal and replacement of the unsightly and now illegal moss-covered corrugated asbestos roof and gable end panelling to the main block.

These should, in my opinion, be replaced with an industrial type of corrugated metal panelling, stove-enamelled in a dark brown colour to blend as closely as possible with the roof tiling on the adjacent lower single storey block.

This important improvement would not only vastly enhance the appearance of the building, but would also allow for the installation of solar panelling which, in sufficient quantity, could substantially reduce the cost of the future energy consumption of the centre.

Fortunately, the roof of the main block just happens to be ideally sited to receive the maximum benefit from the available sunshine.

Lastly, I think the proposals to improve the internal facilities, such as the changing rooms and dining area, as already proposed, would undoubtedly be of great benefit both practically and financially to the centre.

John Kerry

Emmabrook Court

Sea Road

Littlehampton

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