The Council must listen to local residents about the location of the new Canada Water leisure site, Liberal Democrat councillors have urged.
A major consultation exercise on the Canada Water Masterplan, the Council’s regeneration plan for the local area, has just begun. As part of the consultation residents are being asked their views on where the new leisure centre should be located.
The consultation follows uproar in the community last summer when the Council announced over the school holidays that its ‘preferred site’ for the leisure centre was on a new site currently designated open space at Hothfield Place/Hithe Grove. The Council wants to demolish the existing Seven Islands leisure centre in Lower Road.
Following residents’ objections, Liberal Democrat councillors ‘called in’ the decision to allow for greater scrutiny. The borough’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee then heard evidence from people living in the area about the site and made a series of recommendations asking the Council to re-consider its proposals.
The Labour Cabinet Member for Regeneration agreed in response to put the new leisure centre plans on hold in order to explain to residents about the other possible sites in the area which were rejected by the Council, including the current Seven Islands leisure centre. A leaflet to all residents and exhibitions this month about the Masterplan now include information about the various potential sites for the new leisure centre and offer a chance for residents to give their views.
Liberal Democrats support residents’ concerns and fear that the Council has already made its choice about the new leisure centre site. At the last meeting of the Council, Liberal Democrats pressed the Leader to listen to local people and respect their decision if the consultation shows that they prefer a different location to the Council’s preferred site.
Surrey Docks Liberal Democrat councillor Lisa Rajan said:
“The Canada Water Masterplan will change the face of our local area radically in the coming years with another 4,500 new residents on the way. It’s crucial that the Labour council creates a plan that existing residents want to see and that the best things about our area are not just wiped off the map.
“This is especially true about the new leisure centre. The Council’s preferred site was sprung on residents without any consultation last summer and is flawed on many levels. It is a nature site, it overlooks existing homes and would be partially above the railway line.
“There are other possible sites and I am glad that Liberal Democrat councillors were able to call in the leisure centre plans and force the Council to carry out a fuller consultation.
“Labour leaders and the local councillors need to listen to the community, not just impose their favoured plan they have cooked up with developers.”
A copy of the question to the Leader of the Council and his answer are here:
QUESTION TO THE LEADER FROM COUNCILLOR LISA RAJAN
If the majority of residents say as part of the current consultation that they want the existing Seven Islands or the shopping centre overspill car park as the site for the new leisure centre at Canada Water, will the Leader of the Council listen?
A final cabinet decision on whether to proceed with our preferred site for a new leisure centre at Canada Water will not be taken until early summer 2016. We think it is important for the health and well being of our residents that we not only provide improved facilities in the area to meet the demand arising from our free swim and gym policy, as well as an increasing population, but also that we maintain continuity of leisure provision in the area. We are consulting residents about these issues through a number of drop in exhibitions which will take place during February. Residents will also be able to make their views known via the council’s website until the end of April. We will consider all the information collected through this process before taking a final decision on whether to proceed with our preferred site for a new leisure centre.