The consultation on the proposed new Leisure Centre between Wantage and Grove has now closed and Councillors are congratulating themselves on the positive responses.
It’s not surprising the responses are positive - we’ve been waiting a long time for improvements to facilities in this area. However, Alderman Joyce Hutchinson made some very valid comments at the District Council meeting last Wednesday.
She reminded Councillors that in 2011 the population of Abingdon was 36,000 and that was about the time that the District Council decided to build a leisure centre for the people of Abingdon. The result was the White Horse Tennis and Leisure Centre with 8,892 square metres of facilities.
In 2011 the population of Wantage and Grove and neighbouring villages was about 22,000. By 2020, when the new leisure centre will be built, the approved new housing developments will bring this figure to approximately 34,000.
The plans shown at the consultation for this new centre is of a building of 4,646 square metres (just over half the size of the White Horse Leisure Centre).
This is a huge disparity with Abingdon.
The facilities offered at the Leisure Centre in Abingdon include: a newly refurbished 120 station gym, fitness class studio, group cycling studio, 8 lane swimming pool, teaching pool, 2 squash courts, 8 badminton court sports hall, sauna & steam room, 6 indoor tennis courts, 4 artificial grass courts & 6 green clay courts, a crèche , a large coffee area.
Abingdon also has an outdoor swimming pool which is currently receiving a £1.3m refurbishment.
Facilities in the proposed new centre in Wantage/Grove include: a small gym, 6 lane pool, learner pool, small coffee area, 4 court sports hall, climbing walls and an all-weather pitch. There is no squash, no tennis, no crèche, and no sauna.
This means that our proposed new Leisure Centre is pretty much the same size as the existing leisure centre with roughly the same size sports hall and pool but we lose the crèche and squash courts from the existing facilities.
We accept that we gain climbing walls, a learner pool, a small cafe and all-weather pitch but nothing like the facilities in Abingdon.
If this is supposed to meet “the growing demand for enhanced sport and leisure facilities, increasing participation in sport and physical activity” as the Council suggests, why isn’t the new Leisure Centre much bigger than the one which was opened 41 years ago when our population was very much smaller?