Herne Bay MP Roger Gale has submitted his views, in relation to the re-location of the Sports Hall, to the City Council in response to the Herne Bay Plan public consultation. The full text of his submission is below:
House of Commons,
3rd March 2008
Connecting Herne Bay
Area Action Plan Preferred Options
Objections to HB1 and HB2 submitted by Roger Gale, MP.
A recognition of the need to replace the existing sports facilities on the pier and to both facilitate the development of the pier itself and upgrade the sports facilities is not only welcome but essential.
Proposals to re-locate the Sports Facilities and Roller Hockey Arena from the Pier to Herne Bay High School and other fitness and health facilities to the Heron Swimming Pool complex have been taken in isolation and do not reflect the wider needs of the approaching two-thirds of the population of the City district resident on the coastal strip.
The High School is located at the back of the town on a road that is already inadequate to meet the traffic demand generated by new-build housing. Very little consideration appears to have been given to the safety of access or to the impact of traffic upon the local environment.
Either the proposed centre will be under-used and not generate traffic, in which case it will have failed to meet its purpose, or it will cause traffic congestion and danger.
(It will be interesting to see how planners propose to create a “clear and strong ….dedicated cycle route between the school, the station and the town centre” and to enable such a route to safely traverse the Thanet Way.)
The report says that “The identification of a suitable site in the Town’s catchment area has proved problematic in advancing Option 4”. From where has sprung the imperative that determines that a completely new fitness centre and five-court hall should be located “within the town’s catchment area” and which options have actually been seriously considered?
Herne Bay enjoys the only international standard roller hockey club in the United Kingdom. Skaters from the whole of the coastal strip use the facility and need and deserve a modern arena with adequate spectator provision.
The coastal strip also lacks a good, accessible, modern performance venue and sports facilities.
Canterbury City District has a one-off opportunity to create, with the backing of Sport England, Kent County Council and other relevant authorities, a state-of-the-art indoor/outdoor sports and leisure complex that will serve the needs of the whole of the populations of Herne Bay, Chestfield, Tankerton, Whitstable and the hinterland villages and developing and expanding settlements.
I share wholeheartedly the view that it is desirable to protect the green land between the coastal towns and can think of no better way of securing that objective than by designating such land as playing fields. Supported by a well-designed pavilion/sports hall that is in keeping with the rural landscape (an exciting project for a good architect) it should be possible – and there is land available – to provide sports, leisure, fitness and performance venues for the existing and future population.
It would appear that the “High School Option” has been driven by the attraction of Building Schools for the Future funding and free land at the expense of the real needs and aspirations of the wider community.
There is no doubt that a purpose built Centre would be more costly than the proposed but second-best alternative. But are we seriously suggesting that a City of the size and importance of Canterbury, the “County Town of East Kent”, a city that proposes to raise and spend in excess of £20 million on a city theatre designed for sedentary leisure, is unable to provide, also, for facilities designed to promote and enhance the health and active leisure of people of all ages?
My understanding is that no City Councillor of any political party has yet visited the K2 Centre at Crawley to see at first hand what can, with the political will, be achieved. I am not advocating a project on such a lavish scale but K2 is living proof that where there is a will there is indeed a way.
I would respectfully urge Canterbury City Council to shelve the High School proposal, to literally go back to the drawing board and to further examine both possible sources of funding and potentially available sites. I fear that if this opportunity is lost then the coastal strip will be denied, possibly for good, the facilities that it deserves and that future generations will not forgive today’s elected politicians if this golden opportunity is not seized.
Roger Gale M.P. (March 6th 2008)