Summary of the Millennium Chamber Meeting
- While a new Swimming and Sports Centre centre is promised by 2020, the plans still envisage the favoured location as near the Academy
- There are still plans to sell off the land on which the Sports Dome stands and the surrounding area, for housing.
- While amateur theatre productions can continue at the Windmill until 2016, the cinema will go dark in mid February. Inspire have reduced staffing which means the Windmill may have to be run on a voluntary basis.
- There are plans to develop the seafront with bike circuits and outdoor gyms.
Counsellor James Walsh spoke and emphasised that the Leisure Report was still a draft and had not been adopted by the Council. Changes can still be made and it was essential that public pressure continued. He again outlined the public concerns over the Leisure Strategy and assured the meeting of his support.
John Stride, CEO Inspire Leisure, outlined the difficult position they have to cope with. The subsidy from ADC has been significantly reduced which means he has had to concentrate his resources on the Swimming and Sports Centre. Because the lease on the Windmill expires in 2016, it is not viable to install digital projection equipment. He had sought a purchasing partnership with ADC, but they had rejected the idea. He fully supported continuing with the cinema but, for the moment, this would have to be with voluntary support.
Tim Kimber, Chair of the Leisure Action Working Group set up following the Public Meeting in October, reported on progress on his talks with both Inspire and ADC. He explained he had to focus his attention on the theatre groups, because that was the main representation on his committee. Negotiations have been successful and amateur productions will continue at the Windmill, with theatre groups providing box office and all support. Online booking is being explored.
Phil McErlain outlined the proposals for a Cinema Club. To date over 1000 people had responded to the idea. He is presently seeking volunteers from this pool, to both run the cinema and form a management committee to explore and support partnerships to keep cinema alive. There remained a strong feeling that Inspire and ADC should provide more support to the cinema.
Larry Haas made a brief presentation on the Localism Act and how the powers within it provide an opportunity for closer local involvement in the future, and the tools for community empowerment.
Angela Tester, on behalf of the Littlehampton Civic Society, proposed the wording for a local petition to prompt a debate in the full Council, as follows:
We, the undersigned, petition Arun District Council to:
(a) keep local amateur and cinema under one roof at the Windmill Entertainment Centre on Littlehampton seafront, and
(b) support the community (or Inspire Leisure) in whatever is necessary for the lease/purchase of digital projection equipment for the community’s benefit in that cinema.
The wording was adopted unanimously by the meeting. Petitions will be available in shops throughout the town, and were available for signature at the meeting.
Hugh Coster representing Bognor Civic Society, spoke and called for ADC to be returned to Committee government, rather than Cabinet government, with local councillors being responsible for issues within their domain.
Ian Buckland, Councillor for River Ward, spoke and fully supported the community’s objections to the proposals.
At the end of the meeting Councillor James Walsh called for a vote. The meeting unanimously rejected the proposals in the revised Leisure Strategy, and called for the Swimming and Sports Centre to be retained in its present location, the Windmill to be retained and supported, and the seafront to retain its present open character.
Arun District Council's ‘Leisure, Tourism and Infrastructure Working Group’ meeting on Thursday 17th January
The Consultants presented their findings. The Working Group then debated the options put forward. A number of District Councillors present, who were not on the Working Group, were allowed to speak and offer opinions but not vote on the issues.
Your efforts to alert Councillors to your concerns are starting to have some positive effect, the strong public opinion to keep the Swimming and Sports Centre where it is was quoted by a number of Councillors, but there is still a way to go. (Please see the end of the email for the outcome of the Working Group Voting Jan 17th on the Windmill and Leisure Centre).
All recommendations by the Working Group will now be considered by District Cabinet on 11th Feb., 5pm at the Civic Centre. The Cabinet may accept or change the recommendations. The final recommendations will be considered by the full District Council on 20th March.
In the lead up to final decisions, it is important to keep reminding your District Councillors of your views.
You can also support the Petition on the Windmill (see my last Dear all) and come out to these two key Council meetings - when future access to leisure, entertainment and sport opportunities in our community will be decided.
If you have any questions for the Cabinet in the Feb 11 meeting remember to send them in early to the ADC website.
The outcome of the Working Group voting:
STRATEGY 1: TO PROVIDE MODERN, FIT FOR PURPOSE LEISURE CENTRES IN BOGNOR REGIS AND LITTLEHAMPTON
1b. Provide New or Improved Leisure Centre for Littlehampton
STAGE 1 – This is required in the short term
Upgrade the existing Littlehampton Swimming and Sports Centre (up to a value of £350,000) to improve its condition and financial performance for the next 8 years.
This was agreed
Option 1 - Seek to build a new leisure centre in north Littlehampton (the precise location to be determined) by 2020 which offers more facilities and better leisure provision than the current centre and is the preferred way forward.
The existing centre will not close unless and until the new leisure centre is ready to open.
If it proves to be impossible to fund a new centre at a suitable location ADC will plan a more substantial reconfiguration and modernisation of the existing centre to be implemented by 2020.
This was rejected
Option 2 – Substantial reconfiguration and modernisation of the existing centre to be implemented by 2020.
This was agreed
Our Comment : This is a very positive outcome. It means the Swimming and Sports Centre is secure in its present location and will be refurbished and modernised by 2020, but only if the 7 Member Cabinet and full 56 Member Council agree this Working Group recommendation.
STRATEGY 3: TO ENHANCE LITTLEHAMPTON’S SEAFRONT AND RIVERSIDE
3a. Facilitate delivery of a hotel, cinema and restaurant
Seek to enable development that looks to provide a mix of uses either on St. Martins Car Park or at the Windmill site.
Amended to read
Seek to enable development that looks to provide a mix of uses either on St. Martins Car Park or another site.
The amended version was agreed
Our Comment: This means further evaluations will be undertaken to establish where best to site a cinema and/or hotel and to assess commercial interest in such projects. So far as we can tell the Windmill will be available for amateur productions for the next three years but the cinema will go dark from mid February.
We still need to continue to press for continuity of Cinema provision and the Civic Society has a petition for acquiring digital projection equipment.
3b. Work up a seaside park enhancement plan to deliver a range of initiatives
Provide a range of initiatives to gradually upgrade the seafront promenade and green spaces.
This was agreed (it was suggested ADC must work with user groups the planning stage where options are first formulated)
Our Comment: We must ensure local residents and user groups are fully involved, from the planning stage onwards, when options are considered, in line with the new laws on local empowerment.
3c. Provide a fit for purpose space for performing arts groups to stage Productions
Work with the Leisure Contractor and user groups to find a solution to provide a space for performing arts groups to stage productions that is fit for purpose and requires less subsidy by Arun District Council. The Windmill remains a temporary venue for amateur dramatics groups to hire.
This was agreed.
Our Comment: We presume this means building a new theatre somewhere else in the longer term, or encouraging a private Cineplex developer to include theatre facilities in any development.