At an EHDC planning meeting at Penns Place, Petersfield, last Monday, it was agreed to defer the reserve matters application for a replacement sports centre for Alton to allow the applicant, Sports and Leisure Management (SLM) Ltd, “to demonstrate quantifiable evidence of how it has engaged the relevant stakeholders in mitigating policies CP 16 and CP17 of the joint core strategy (Local Plan) and policy CH2 of the Alton Neighbourhood Plan, within the 15-minute drive time of the new facility”.
CP 16 and CP17 relate to the provision of like-for-like sporting facilities, and policy CH2 clearly states that a replacement sports centre facility should provide “an enhanced level of recreational provision for Alton in terms of quality and quantity” which objectors, led by Alton councillors Andrew Joy, Dean Phillips and David Orme, felt this application would not.
Nor did they believe there was sufficient evidence and quantifiable data to prove the applicant had engaged in proper public consultation when seeking to address the requirement of these policies, merely a timeline of undocumented meetings.
It is a view held by Alton Sports Centre Action Group, representing all sports centre users, including members of Alton and District Sports Council whose chairman, Alex Golding, is delighted that, by working together, the group has managed “to make a difference”.
Describing it as providing “a flicker of hope” that they might achieve public representation in the formulating of “a new facility that enhances sport provision in the town”, Mrs Golding described the planners’ decision as “really positive news” that will enabled the action group to work with EHDC, the operator (Everyone Active), sporting clubs and the public, “to achieve the best outcome for everyone”.
Mrs Golding added: “We’ve been particularly encouraged by the way sports groups have become more vociferous since last week’s decision. Sports centre users who may have been reticent to speak out before have found a voice, seeing that change is possible. They are keen to see their sports better represented, and to use the opportunity to expand, and really focus on maximising sporting opportunities for all.”
Concerned that the current proposal is based on user figures that, they believe, do not take into account the shortage of car-parking space, the fact that clubs are over subscribed and that the current facility is not able to cope with the existing population, leading to people going elsewhere, simply not using the facility at all, and not on the predicted future growth of Alton and its surrounding villages, in a bid to facilitate “a comprehensive and meaningful consultation process’, Alton Sports Centre Action Group has offered its unreserved assistance to EHDC.
“There is now a real opportunity to work with the district council to achieve the best facility for everyone,” said Mrs Golding.
“We are excited to see what the consultation process shows and to see how alternative plans might develop. Together, we really can continue to make a difference.”