Arena – a leisure centre in more ways than one

We last wrote an item about the replacement of Arena over three years ago.  An update is overdue, so we’ve added a final statement to the following quotations from the borough council.

Arena

2006 borough council Corporate Plan, key priority: “Develop a replacement strategy for the Arena within the Camberley area by April 2008”.

April 2008: “At a meeting of the council’s executive last month, members considered a report that recommended the funding of a feasibility study into options available to the council for the future use of the civic area east of Knoll Road, in addition to delivering a replacement for the Arena Leisure Centre.”

End 2011: “A taskforce is to be assembled to look at all options for the future of the Arena Leisure Centre when the current contract runs out [in 2016]”

July 2014: “Options for the future of this facility are being investigated with an opportunity to redevelop the site into a state-of-the-art leisure centre, currently being explored. Surrey Heath Borough Council Executive will consider investment options to refurbish or redevelop the facility.”

Dec 2014 : “Strategic Objective: Renew the leisure centre.”

Dec 2016: “In order to ensure that any procurement process undertaken complies with the procurement regulations and that the Council has sufficient time to consider all options available, undertake purposeful consultation, properly consider value for money and decide on the very best way forward, the process will start now with the aim of delivering a new contract with the building completed by April 2019.”

January 2018 on-line Q&A session: A contract to design, build, operate and maintain [a new] Arena will be finalised in March 2019.

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So, it’s taking thirteen years from identifying the key priority to awarding a contract. That’s leisurely progress indeed.

 

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Herbal medicines – without a sign

The herbal medicines shop in the High Street seems to have lost the sign over its window.  We feared the worst – but the lights were on inside when we took our second photo a few days ago, so perhaps it’s just work in progress.

(We’ve never really peered inside the shop before.  But we have to say that it looks quite inviting.)

No prize – but there’s no right answer

What does this sign at the top end of Knoll Walk – in sight of the council offices – indicate?  It’s not as obvious (to the Eye, anyway) as might be thought at first.

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Apologies if we’ve mentioned this sign before.  But it bugs us.  If only someone ‘in authority’ walked around the town looking for easy improvements, we reckon the sign would have been changed or removed years ago.

The council talks about improving the ‘public realm’.  It could start by asking the county council to remove this unhelpful notice.  A few minutes with an angle grinder, and the whole thing could be yours!

SHBC: the council that can’t say ‘no’. Or ‘yes’.

Let’s go back to a bit before Christmas, when we sent the council a Freedom of Information Inquiry.  It related to the new flooring in The Square, and asked: “- can the council confirm that explicit assurance has been obtained that the floor is appropriate for those suffering from dementia and related problems?”

We were hoping for a ‘yes/no’ answer.  But, after the 20 working-day guideline period for replying to an FOI Inquiry had elapsed without an answer, we chased the council.  We then received the following: “The Freedom of Information Act 2000 covers recorded information only held by Surrey Heath Borough Council and does not cover expressions of opinion.  Your request has therefore been dealt with as routine business. “

Now, of course, our question had nothing to do with an expression of opinion.  So, we concluded that the council was reluctant, or unable, to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Anyway, we’d pretty much forgotten this saga until more recently we wrote again to the council asking for a ‘yes/no’ answer.  You may remember that there’s been a fairly public disagreement between the agent promoting a planning application for the former Bensons for Beds shop and the borough council – after the latter had rejected the application.  P1100315We had hoped to reproduce some of the correspondence so that you could form your own opinion.  However, the council’s communication ends with a disclaimer along the lines of ‘This is confidential, and you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered if you reveal it’.

Not wishing to be hung, drawn or quartered, last month we asked the council for permission to publish its correspondence and views. We know that our request was received, but we’re still waiting to hear ‘yes’ or ‘no’.  In the meantime, the Bensons for Beds agent has our sympathy; dealing with the council can be VERY frustrating.

Surrey Heath Museum. Is it history or not?

In the recent on-line Q&A session, the future of the borough’s museum in Knoll Road was raised.  It was apparent that no decision was going to be made public at that point.  But it also seemed pretty clear that some fairly significant changes were coming.  The message was that the old way of doing things had served the borough well – but it was the old way.

The council is looking for a fresh start with a more modern approach to providing museum services.  (Interestingly, on other occasions the council has referrred to ‘heritage services’, as if a bricks and mortar museum would be a thing of the past.  But no such terminology was used during the Q&A session.  Can anything be read into this – or was the council just being careful?)

Does the council ever feel embarrassed?

When this new ‘artwork’ appeared on the A30 recently, we wrote an item which said that we expected that it would be there “for years”.  Why did we say that?  Well, judge for yourself….

Almost the whole stretch of buildings facing the A30 between the High Street and Park Street is known as the London Road Block (LRB).  In mid-2015 we wrote an article titled ‘Camberley – the town that time will forget?’  This highlighted the council’s earlier forecast that a planning application to redevelop the LRB would be submitted by the end of 2014.  The forecast was based on the assumption that the then-owners of the shopping mall would be prime movers in the redevelopment.  But to the Eye this was obviously not going to be the case.  We wrote in our article:  ‘For longer than we care to remember, we have been saying that the council needs a ‘Plan B’.’

The council STILL needs a ‘Plan B’.  Indeed, it doesn’t seem to have a firm ‘Plan A’ either!  At the moment, apparently it’s looking at the feasibility of various schemes for the LRB.  As recently as last summer, it was telling residents that a planning application would be submitted by the end of 2017.  Now it’s saying that this won’t happen until perhaps the end of THIS year, or the beginning of the next.

These are the FACTS.  Based on the facts, when do YOU think the the artwork and hoarding will be removed?

(If you want to read our 2015 article in full, you’ll find it HERE.  Note that, for simplicity, the article loosely refers to the mall’s owners as ‘The Mall’)

The Entertainer really IS having a major make-over

We took this photo a few days ago.  As you can see, The Entertainer toy shop in the High Street is being well and truly ‘gutted’.

More recently, a skip appeared in the roadway outside the shop.  This had a lid that was padlocked shut.  We smiled at this.  Normally a padlock is used to prevent items from being ‘removed’, but in this case we imagine that the intention is to stop anything from being ADDED!

Five sixes – a new answer?

There isn’t much happening around the town at the moment, and our camera has probably captured most – not all – of the changes.  So this is the second time in quick succession that we’re showing the Five Sixes taxi firm on the A30.  In the few days since our last photo of it, the building has acquired an ‘Under new management’ sign.