On Thursday 13th February a planning meeting took place at Sevenoaks District Council where the future of Swanley Leisure Centre was discussed and voted on.
As is well known, the plans for the new centre do not meet the current standard and has been rejected by local residents and councillors. The new plans proposed by Sevenoaks District Council will reduce the size from the current centre, removing the deep water area which would force the diving schools to relocate whilst other groups who use the centre in the sports hall such as the badminton groups are also expected to relocate to accommodate the new plans.
Swanley is expecting a rise in population in the coming years due to plans to build more new homes in the area, this should be part of the consideration process. Being the only Labour councillor on the District representing Swanley, myself and fellow town councillors have been unanimous in pressing for a larger centre with improved facilities, this should be an extension of what we have, not a reduction.
The call for a larger centre is supported by alternative plans from Derek Sutton who has proposed a more suitable, cheaper plan than proposed by SDC which is currently costed at £24 million. These plans would include space for a deep water area and ensuring all current clubs could remain on site.
During the debate, there was considerable discussion around whether Swanley was securing a good deal or not. However, this was eventually shut down by Sevenoaks Councillors who promptly change the tone of the debate, decided for us that Swanley was getting a good deal and moved to an immediate vote. This vote was carried in favour of SDC’s plans 10:6. The feeling in the room for voting in favour of the plans was that if the plans were not to go ahead, Swanley would be left with no leisure centre once the building and pool became unfit for use.
Swanley is going to be left with a considerably smaller leisure centre as a result of Sevenoaks Councillors pushing through the plans for a Town they do not live and likely, care very little about. We will have a much smaller pool, no large sports hall and therefore less facilities than we currently have now.
I can still remember the excitement in the town when the current pool opened in 1967 – a lovely, bright centre with a beautiful pool where all of my family members learned to swim. I fear the next generation of residents in Swanley will not have the same opportunities as mine.