The Arun Leisure Culture Strategy finds that ‘people do not travel far to use leisure centres’, highlights the weakness of the quality and range of leisure in the centre of Bognor, and criticises the Littlehampton Leisure Centre because it is a considerable distance from the town centre.
It nevertheless recommends closing the centrally-located bowling greens at Waterloo Square and the bowling greens and tennis courts at Swansea Gardens, and constructing similar facilities at a new multi-purpose activity park on the outskirts of Bognor at West Park.
The thinking behind this proposal seems to be that West Park, being simply grassed over, is under-utilised and should be filled up with facilities for more ‘useful’ activities.
However, and puzzlingly, for Waterloo Square, that argument is reversed – existing sporting facilities must be removed and a greenfield site created.
As long-standing inhabitants of Bognor, we consider the well-established and well-used bowling greens at Waterloo Square are already a natural hub for that part of the town.
Why anyone would even consider replacing them with an open field, however well-landscaped, is quite beyond us.
Despite the statement in the strategy that facilities in West Park will be more visible to potential users, from personal knowledge we can confirm that during the summer months the tennis courts and bowling greens at Swansea Gardens are in continuous use, so present users obviously have no difficulty finding them.
We note the consequent redevelopment of Waterloo Square and West Park is to be paid for by selling the present sites in Swansea Gardens for residential development.
The assumption is that this prime site is worth £2m.
Simple arithmetic tells us that, for a developer to make a minimum ten per cent return on that outlay, they would have to build at least nine houses (£250,000 each?), or 30 flats (£75,000 each), or a mixture of houses and flats.
Also, we have heard rumours of low-cost social housing which, if correct, would presumably mean that even more units would have to be squeezed in.
The consequent additional infrastructure in what is already an intensely-developed residential area will require detailed study in advance of any agreement to the sale.
We agree wholeheartedly with the warning in the strategy that the exact content of the proposed new activity park at West Park will need more detailed consideration, in consultation with local people and users of the facilities that would be replaced.
The area of West Park is four hectares, large but not enormous, but a large part of that would be immediately taken up by relocating the existing tennis courts and bowling greens from Waterloo Square and Swansea Gardens.
It is by no means clear whether any of the additional facilities proposed – five-a-side football, jogging and cycling tracks, outdoor gym, pitch and putt golf and an athletics track – could be fitted in.
We have studied the list of facilities and services which people would like to have new or improved, and note that in the 34 facilities listed, athletics came 19th, outdoor tennis courts 25th and bowling greens 28th. Hardly a resounding criticism of the existing greens!
Alan and Elaine Mowat
St Winifreds Close, Bognor Regis