LITTLEHAMPTON’S new leisure centre should not be moved and instead rebuilt on the current site, consultants have recommended.
The long-awaited report into the future of the Sea Road facility will be discussed by councillors next Thursday but Arun District Council confirmed the recommendation as the Gazette went to press.
Nearly 7,000 signatures were gathered on a petition against the relocation of the centre, submitted to the council last week.
Leader Gill Brown said: “We are extremely pleased with the findings of the report and believe the Sea Road site is the best place to construct this fantastic new leisure centre.
“One of the great benefits of the recommendation is that the new leisure centre will be up and running by 2019 for the public to enjoy.
“We want the best possible leisure services for people to the east of the River Arun and don’t want any delays in delivering this new centre. This is an exciting time for leisure provision in the district.”
An Arun spokesman said the report, written by The Sports Consultancy, concludes that a new centre is affordable and should be constructed on the site of the sports dome and the overflow car park.
This will allow the existing centre to remain open during the construction phase, which was a key requirement of the council’s leisure strategy.
An alternative site north of the Littlehampton Academy was also considered but the consultants advised there were a number of potential delays that may affect construction on the site.
These included significant uncertainties over the date of delivery for the new link road, the acquisition of the land for the centre and the costs associated with cleaning up the land, which was previously used for landfill.
It was decided that these uncertainties and the associated costs would have a significant impact on delivering a centre at this location.
Cabinet member for leisure and amenities, Paul Dendle, said: “A new larger centre is required to meet the growing population and will serve as a catalyst to improve the health, wellbeing and social needs of the district for generations to come.
“The new centre will transform the economics of leisure in Littlehampton, guaranteeing its future for decades to come.
“I feel confident that the findings of this study will be warmly received and I’m looking forward to seeing the new leisure centre take shape.”
The centre’s future has been a bone of contention for several months, with campaigners fearing Arun would sell the current site for housing and move the centre.
Littlehampton Community Charter group spokesman Terry Ellis, who gathered the petition’s signatures, said last week: “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 the site to the highest bidder for housing and it will be like a gated community.”
Labour councillor Mike Northeast had suggested a more appropriate location for the site would be on the planned North Littlehampton development, citing the difficulties some of his constituents in Wick and Toddington had in getting to the leisure centre.
Just last week, the Liberal Democrats had hoped to debate the issue, arguing all views should be taken into account and not just the report. The motion, however, was defeated on a procedural technicality.
The report will first be considered by the leisure, tourism and infrastructure working group. Arun’s cabinet will then discuss it on November 16.