ALTON Town Council’s consultation over the mix of facilities to be provided by a new Alton Sports Centre has recorded a significant 2,479 responses from the public, with 25 sports clubs and 11 schools completing an adapted questionnaire.
Initiated by the town council, the public consultation was carried out between May 30 and June 23 in response to “significant” concern over the lack of public consultation by East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) and fears that Alton is being given a centre that will not provide for the needs or wishes of a rapidly-growing community.
Having carried out a significant amount of research and come up with a proposal that it believes to be deliverable, will benefit the greatest number of users, and will generate a return for its investment, EHDC is convinced the new proposals will result in “a fantastic multi-million pound state-of-the-art facility” that will serve the town for many years to come.
To be built by EHDC in a joint venture with new partner Everyone Active, which took on the management of the current sports centre from April 1, the new facility will cost in the region of £20m and is expected to open in autumn 2019.
It will be built on the artificial turf pitch behind the existing 1970s-era centre, which will be demolished once the new building is in operation.
While not denying the need for a replacement building, anger was sparked in Alton over the decision by EHDC to present a “done deal” to the community, after signing a legal agreement with Everyone Active at the end of March without full public consultation, and then insisting that the facilities mix in particular was “non-negotiable”.
Aware of public concerns, Alton Town Council has been seeking public views on the specification for the new sports centre and if people are supportive of what has been decided.
A report, to go before a full meeting of the town council today (Thursday), reveals that analysis of the consultation has illustrated the need for reassurance that the proposed facility is “future proof, big enough, modern and able to house all of the clubs currently using the existing facility”, that it will be capable of accommodating an expanding population, both in Alton and the surrounding villages, and be able to cater for a wide variety of clubs and sports that may like to use the centre in the future.
In her report, town clerk Leah Coney pointed out that a notable number of respondents had highlighted the need for a “clean building” (in particular the changing rooms), additional parking and the retention of climbing facilities, rather than a clip ‘n’climb alternative.
Key concerns had been raised over adequate provision for dance, squash and gymnastics, with the greatest concern directed at the swimming pool which, respondents agreed, should offer fun and inclusive activities for all ages but should also provide the facilities required for competitive training and galas, including a good viewing area, timing boards, and touch pads.
“Overall, Altonians have stated that provision of sport for all and particularly activities and clubs for youth are important factors for them in the provision of the new centre,” wrote Mrs Coney.
While there was strong representation by those wanting the emphasis to remain on ‘sports’ rather than ‘leisure’, there were others keen that the new centre should be a “family friendly, sociable community venue” for those not involved in competitive sport but more in general wellbeing.
The results of the consultation, and the debate at the full council meeting this evening, which starts at 7pm at Alton College (access via Edward Road) will inform the town council’s decision on whether or not to support EHDC’s proposed mix of facilities for the new sports centre.