Ms. Philippa Dart,
Assistant Director, Environmental Services
Dear Ms. Dart,
I write to kindly request clarification about Environmental Services plans for Norfolk Gardens on Littlehampton’s seafront in Beach Ward. This is also with reference to PROJECT 3A: (Waterfront) PARK ENHANCEMENT PLAN, as described in the draft Arun District Leisure Strategy.
Concern about lack of specifics on PROJECT 3A and related community empowerment in decisions on what 3A actually includes, was raised in the Public Question period at the Littlehampton Town Council committee meeting on Planning and Transportation Monday, 15 Oct., chaired by Beach Ward Cllr Jill Long.
I write also as an Inspire Leisure Member to ask if District Council has, or will have, a mechanism to enable Norfolk Gardens recreation users to join with conservation interests and area residents to discuss plans for Norfolk Gardens and its recreation provision, arising from Project 3A – or otherwise. I suggest that will provide a more creative input and allay fears.
Project 3A has the appearance of a priority recommendation in the Leisure Strategy concerning Littlehampton and area. If we read correctly, your consultants recommend essentially, selling the Windmill Entertainment Centre (to generate a developer contribution), “… to invest in a range of improvements that create a waterfront park that is branded, managed and marketed as a destination in its own right, one which encompasses a variety of different destinations of different type to integrate the East Bank, the Green, Norfolk Gardens, and Mewsbrook Park into a park with a name, while retaining distinctive component parts.” (Page 117 in the Main Volume of the Leisure Strategy Report).
People want to be assured that a “linear Disneyland-style destination park on the seafront to attract summer-time tourists at the expense of local recreation provision”, will not be imposed from above, or otherwise incrementally happen under any consultant’s vision for “revitalisation of recreational facilities in Norfolk Gardens”. Selling off our main culture and entertainment asset (the Windmill) to finance that would put us in double jeopardy – some people fear.
Norfolk Gardens currently provides the enjoyment of lovely gardens, trees and green space in keeping with the culture and conservation values of this distinctive area. At the same time, it is the local hub and a great home for our local fitness, recreation and leisure provision, including community:
- mini putt (adventure golf), pitch & putt
- indoor and outdoor café facilities with culture provision, e.g. community events, poetry workshops,
- walking and seating areas in the gardens,
- green space
- connection to the existing skate bowl nearby in front of the water treatment plant, and
- connection to the multi-use Leisure Centre with the pool facilities, sport dome and aqua centre.
Norfolk Gardens thus already caters for multiple recreational interests in the wider Littlehampton, Rustington and nearby areas (for people of all ages), on top of offering conservation value, and helping to make a quality place for residents to live. The local view is the current mix of conservation and recreation provision at Norfolk Gardens works very well, and our congratulations to the Council for that.
I elaborate further on the background for this request for information on the new plans for Norfolk Gardens in the Supplement at the end of this email.
Key points if I may suggest are:
1. What people do want to see is genuine opportunity for recreation users and local residents to participate in dialogue on options under Project 3A, as concerning Norfolk Gardens, and equally important to be empowered to play a meaningful role in the decisions on them.
2. What people do not want to see is recreation provision in Norfolk Gardens for Littlehampton and area residents sacrificed to schemes aiming to attract day tourists to our seafront, in summer time, especially untested schemes that generate no revenue themselves.
3. Perhaps most important, people do not want to see tradeoffs being made in local leisure provision and conflicts created within Norfolk Gardens without full user group and local resident consultation to decide better approaches. This reflects a genuine aspiration in keeping with the Localism Act.
Local consensus on the way forward for Norfolk Gardens is to ensure the current balance of conservation value and recreation provision is not lost, or needlessly undermined, and that District Council may seek to empower community interests to explore creative ways to raise income generation from these local assets.
§ I would suggest that most people are happy with the current mix and balance. Recreation provision in Norfolk Gardens reflects our area demographics and offers opportunities for all. Certainly the usage rates of existing provision can be “revitalized” – but we are not sure if Project 3A shares our goals, and certainly the presentation of it concern us.
§ To illustrate only, the following are a few ways to enhance recreational provision and avoid decisions that create conflict. Area user groups have already suggested these, and they may be evolved in facilitated discussions with the appropriate interests:
- Having a Junior Golf Academy, perhaps one staffed by voluntary or part voluntary people based in the Leisure Centre enhancing use of Norfolk Garden’s Pitch and Putt.
- And / or a Golf Academy for “children of all ages” in partnership with the area commercial golf centres and area volunteers.
- Similarly, adopting skate bowl users views on how to optimize use of the current site in front of the water treatment plant, where there is some room to expand facilities;
- That avoids relocating that facility in front of housing, or areas where conservation values are high, and otherwise bringing conflict with other recreation provision.
Each user group will have innovative proposals to offer, drawing on their own local knowledge, recreation expertise and joined up community thinking. But I would suggest only if they are engaged effectively, and it is made clear exactly how they are empowered in the decision process on these local matters.
Meantime, we hope the Environment Services Team at Council has time to take on board the views of our own elected Town and Parish Councillors on the draft Leisure Strategy. Copied at the end of this email is local media coverage of the Public Meeting 2nd October on the LS from the Littlehampton Gazette. That is a gentle reminder of "what our pleasure” in Littlehampton, Rustington and nearby areas is. Also attached is a copy of the community report on the Public Meeting submitted to your Team October 5th that was circulated more widely.
We look forward to the outcome of your public consultation on the wider Arun District area. And assume that will be part of the public disclosure package with the agenda for the next District Cabinet Meeting, when it is ready.
Our impression is Littlehampton and area community very much encourages District Council to come back to the community for genuine consultation on a richer set of options that we can all support. Norfolk Gardens may be an important starting point for that process?
People will welcome that opportunity.
Inspire Leisure Member
East Beach, Littlehampton
We note what the Council website says about PROJECT 3A: (Waterfront) PARK ENHANCEMENT PLAN
“… (Project) 3a Turning the waterfront into a High Quality Destination exploiting the river and beachfront. Improvements could see new park facilities such as an outdoor gym, extension of the miniature railway and enhancement of Norfolk Gardens to include a new café or restaurant.
In the Summary of the leisure Strategy report (page 21) it says “Enhancement of Norfolk Gardens, including café/restaurant offer.”
The message regarding Norfolk Gardens (underlined above), which people take away, is there may be refurbishment of the café. Who would argue with that? The message implies no threat to current recreation opportunities and conservation values, or distinctive character that makes it a great place to live – and why we invested to live here.
Whereas the Leisure Strategy Report says,
…. “revitalisation of recreational facilities in Norfolk Gardens,
That is embodied in statements under PROJECT 3A, on page what 117 of the Main Report that points to unspecified redevelopment with “revitalisation of recreational facilities in Norfolk Gardens, to create a waterfront park integrating the East Bank, the Green, Norfolk Gardens, and Mewsbrook Park into a Park.
At the Public Consultation at Norfolk Gardens (between 17 Sept and 5 Oct) there were inferences of changes in recreation provision in the Norfolk Gardens being considered under Project 3A based on current use and revenue patterns – thus leaving people to think decision would be taken behind closed doors and then announced for consultation. Similar to how the consultation was run on the first draft of the leisure strategy proceeding to this final draft.
It also states in the LS report “The basic vision is (of 3A) that the seafront will be more attractive for active leisure, particularly for cycling”.
The Broader Concern
For our part, the implications for existing recreation and leisure provision in Norfolk Gardens and the balance with conservation values is not clear. And the context is:
- People want to avoid repeating the experience with the Leisure Strategy.
- Most feel there was no genuine community voice in evolving the options in the Leisure Strategy that gave birth to Project 3A, or to verify the data supporting the consultant’s assessment of options.
- The debate on the Leisure Strategy is now taking up everyone’s limited, valuable time and resources – and we feel unnecessarily so. Witness the 2,000 or so letters to elected politicians at all levels. For the most part, that is down to lack of proper consultation, we respectfully submit. That view was unequivocally expressed in the Public Meeting and Town Council debates.
- This concern about Norfolk Gardens arises in part because the waterfront park concept has little specifics, yet it is ambitiously promoted as PROJECT 3A: PARK ENHANCEMENT PLAN. And we were asked to endorse it, or say what our pleasure was.
- As noted, one view emerging now, fuelled in part simply by the lack of specifics and now that people have time to read and discuss, is that what is on offer now is a potential “linear Disneyland-type Destination Park on the seafront.” Or if you like, a concept that has potential to destroy community value. And to pay for it, we sell off our culture and entertainment asset, the Windmill. So in fact double jeopardy. That is a common view in the dinner parties, in the coffee shops and on the street – and in an around Inspire Leisure facilities that we use.
- More specifically, it is not clear how the distinction is to be made between local community recreation needs, conservation value and green space - on the one hand; and effective ways to attract day visitors to Littlehampton with a waterfront park, on the other.
- The “Waterfront) Park is, “branded, managed and marketed as a destination in its own right, one which encompasses a variety of different destinations of different types”. People are not sure if that is planning speak, or something that posed a real threat to our recreation provision in Norfolk Gardens - on top of clear threat to the Leisure Centre just beside Norfolk Gardens, and the Windmill Entertainment Centre.
- Again the Littlehampton, Rustington and area Town and Parish Council and Public Meeting all have taken a very clear view on those matters.
On Norfolk Gardens this concern is specifically
Apart from the need for local views to prevail on what is needed to “retain the culture” and “retain distinctive nature” of our Gardens and its environment value, there are technical concerns about value for money and how the income generation potential of any changed mix of recreation provision is calculated. Especially as that seems to be a main criterion.
There is concern:
- On any proposals or thinking (of as yet unspecified options) to displace recreational opportunities in Norfolk Gardens that currently generate revenue, with activities that do not actually generate revenue. Or potentially do so indirectly or in ways that are not measureable, such those measures as based on untested and frankly (what we would suggest) false premises they “attract” day tourists to the waterfront all year or in the summer.
- And we expect it is mostly seasonal as people come to the waterfront in the summer for the sea primarily. The efforts to enhance and diversify provision are encouraged and fine, but not at the expense of local recreational provision in Norfolk Gardens and the Leisure Centre that now reflects the demographics of the area, and is integrated with the conservation values of the area.
- The local view is the use rates of recreation services in Norfolk Gardens can be enhanced somewhat by more creative thinking on what is offered.
- As I noted one suggestion only as am illustrative point is to have a Junior Golf Academy, perhaps one staffed by voluntary or part voluntary people based in the Leisure Centre enhancing use of Norfolk Garden’s Pitch and Putt. Or a Golf Academy for “children of all ages” in partnership with the area commercial golf centres and area volunteers.
- Similarly, adopting skate bowl users views on optimal use of the current site in front of the water treatment plant where there is room to expand facilities. That avoids relocating the skate facility in front of housing (where it would be an incompatible use), or areas where conservation values are high such as to green space, or bringing conflict or interfered with other recreation provision.
- These are only examples of how to local people see the logical way forward to add community value, take advantage of the synergy for recreational provision with our assets in this area, maintain green space and boost income.
- We have not yet seen mechanisms for tapping the community for ideas on creative diversity and synergy – at least not in the formulation of the Leisure Strategy proposals to date.
- Local confidence that District Council will indeed provide these mechanism before “a decision is taken on our behalf” is rapidly falling away.
Thus the next logical step, in view of the elected Town and Parish Council votes and overwhelming public rejection of the Leisure Strategy consultant report is for the Council to work with the community to validate the data and assumptions on which the exiting options on offer are formulated, and in that process rescue the ideas in the report that merit consideration and enjoy public support. if Project 3A is a good idea, and it is not funded by selling the Windmill, then take the necessary steps to empower recreation users and local residents to participate in dialogue on options to consider under Project 3A, as regards Norfolk Gardens, and equally important, empower them to play a meaningful role in the decisions. That would reflect the spirit and intent of the Localism Act.
Windmill For Sale Published on Thursday 26 September 2002 18:14
SELLING the Windmill Theatre is the only option for its future, Arun District Council claimed this week as the Littlehampton seafront venue went on the market.
An advertisement offering the cinema/theatre for sale shocked members of the Windmill Action Group (WAG) and Littlehampton Town Council. Both claimed they had not been consulted properly over a marketing brief for potential buyers.
They were also surprised to read that selling the Windmill was the only option mentioned in the advertisement, as senior Arun officers and councillors had previously spoken of a range of possibilities for its future, such as partnerships with other organisations.
Littlehampton mayor Wendy Squires told the Gazette: "We were amazed to see the advertisement, with selling the Windmill off as the only option.
"The town council has not been consulted over this. We will do everything we can to make sure the Windmill stays there."
Mike Northeast, a town and Arun councillor, said: "Selling off the Windmill shows Arun wants to have nothing to do with it. What happens if a few years down the road, the buyer is losing money, closes it down and boards it up?
"We will have a derelict building on the seafront and then someone will come along with a housing development there."
Former mayor Tony Squires pointed out the Windmill site was given to the people of Littlehampton by a former Duke of Norfolk. "It's not for Arun to sell it off. This is a disgrace."
Asked if the town council might bid for the Windmill, Mr Northeast replied: "We shouldn't have to. Who are we buying it from? It's ours"
Jackie Mallinson, chairman of WAG, said the group would be meeting to discuss the advertisement next week. It was too early to say if the group, made up of the drama, dance and music societies using the Windmill, would be making a bid.
John Stride, Arun's head of leisure services, said selling off the Windmill had always been a possibility, as part of a "best value" review Arun had carried out of its leisure facilities.
He stressed that points made by the town council and WAG at meetings earlier this year had been taken into account in drawing up the marketing brief, which made clear that community theatre and cinema use were key elements.
In the advertisement, potential buyers of the freehold or leasehold also have to demonstrate their proposed scheme's "ability to benefit the local community in economic, social and aesthetic terms, whilst maintaining a cinema and theatre at the site".
The closing date for bids is October 25.
Town Council Turns Down Windmill Published on Thursday 18 April 2002 10:22
LITTLEHAMPTON Town Council has turned down the chance to take over the seafront Windmill theatre/cinema. But rumours that the Windmill had been put on the market this week were rejected by its owners, Arun District Council, as "having no validity at all".
News of the town council's decision comes as drama and music societies in the town who use the entertainment complex are being invited to a public meeting, to discuss setting up a campaign to ensure its future.
Tuesday's meeting follows moves by Arun to look at other ways of running the loss-making venue. It receives a subsidy of more than 100,000 a year, and needs up to 500,000 spending on modernising and essential repairs.
Arun approached the town council about the possibility of the Windmill changing hands, but town clerk John Bagshaw has written to the district council, saying that while his members accepted the need for a community theatre, they felt it was Arun's responsibility to maintain and improve the facility.
Mr Bagshaw stressed to the Gazette, however, that the door was not being completely shut on the town council's possible involvement in providing community theatre facilities in the future.
Tuesday's meeting at the Dairy Community Centre, Church Street, Littlehampton, at 7pm, has been organised by Jackie Mallinson, of Littlehampton Musical Comedy Society. Representatives of other theatre, music and dance groups are welcome to attend, along with anyone else concerned about the future of the Windmill.
Mrs Mallinson said the meeting would help to establish how much support there was for any campaign to save the Windmill and would present a united front to Arun over the matter.
"The focus will be on how to conduct the campaign. We will make sure we get ourselves heard.
"Arun said there would be a meeting for Windmill users, but we have heard nothing from them at all."
She underlined the Windmill's value to the community as a theatre, especially for groups which involved children, some of them from more deprived areas of the town. "I have various ideas for what could be done with the Windmill, but we need to hear from other people and get some enthusiasm going," said Mrs Mallinson.
Arun services director Colin Rogers, commenting on the Windmill sell-off rumours, said the council's policy was to investigate alternative methods of managing the Windmill.
Following the town council's decision not to take over the complex, the next step for Arun will be for Mr Rogers and head of leisure services John Stride to draw up a report spelling out appropriate uses for the Windmill by any organisation running it in the future.
The report, to a meeting of Arun's cabinet next month or in June, would also look at covenants on the Windmill site restricting what it was used for and what could and could not be sold there.
Mr Rogers said there could well be direct approaches to organisations who might be interested in running the Windmill, including community theatre groups, commercial cinema companies and leisure and tourism concerns.