As most of our readers will know quite well, the borough council has proposed replacing the existing Arena leisure centre with larger leisure facilities on roughly the same site. But this will have two major disadvantages: Firstly, there’ll be no leisure centre at all for two years whilst the redevelopment is underway. Secondly, a larger facility needs more parking space, so a significant portion of the grassed recreation ground would become a car park.
Now, we know that the council has been looking into the replacement of Arena for well over a decade (have a look at the Eye article at https://thecamberleyeye.wordpress.com/2017/01/14/arena-a-story-as-long-running-as-the-archers for more information). So, the matter can’t be urgent – we’ve certainly heard nothing recently to suggest that the timescale is pressing. In which case, let’s look beyond the present….
We’re pretty sure that the borough council is considering moving out of its current offices and into the London Road Block when this is redeveloped. (Of course, the council has never said this publically – we can’t be trusted with the information. So we’re having to read the tea leaves here.) The obvious question is ‘what will happen to the site of the existing council offices?. Perhaps one option is to put the new Arena there. Knoll Road is already ‘home’ to the library and the theatre; it’s a suitable location for further civic amenities.
Of course, maybe the council office site isn’t big enough – will it also suffer from a lack of parking space? Perhaps. However, earlier proposals for the London Road Block have included a new car park. Obviously, we’ve not gone around with a tape measure, but, as there’s no longer a demand for the all new shops that featured in those proposals, some of that car park could be going spare. In which case, it could be used by a new Arena on the other side of Knoll Road.
So, just maybe there’s no need to destroy green space in the recreation ground. And just maybe there’ll be no need to do without a leisure centre for two years. Instead, simply wait for the council to move out, and put the new Arena on the vacated site. The old Arena could then be demolished and the site used for something acceptable.
No doubt the council will be able to shoot down this idea pretty convincingly. It’s bound to have considered it already, so it will have all the counter-arguments to hand. Perhaps objectors to the council’s currrent scheme should ask to see them… Plus, if our suggestion has been rejected, what other possibilities have been evaluated – and on what grounds were they ruled out? Might they be revived?
Working WITH the council ought to be more productive than merely objecting. Might it work in this case?
ADDENDUM. Of course, the theme behind what we’ve just written is ‘look critically at all the alternatives – it can’t be a black and white situation’. One comment about this item reminded us that we wrote about another alternative years ago. You’ll find it here: https://thecamberleyeye.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/the-leisure-centre-yet-again/