Open Forum Meeting to discuss plans for the new Sports Centre

Wednesday 11th October, 2017

We were very disappointed with the outcome of the meeting held at the Community Centre on Wednesday 11th October to discuss the reserved matters application.

A major issue was the absence of displays of Reserved Matters (RM) plans (just one slide in the presentation), despite the meeting being billed as “an opportunity to view the Plans”. Instead, the display was simply of a few artists’ impressions – clearly intended as good marketing, but actually quite useless in terms of informing the public. The presentation on the facilities was moderately helpful, but spoiled by a desperate attempt to ‘hard sell’ the new building, given the background of poor community involvement.

As expected, there were some challenging questions from the floor, including many from potential stakeholders, who feel they have been short-changed. There were many comments about wasted opportunities; a community facility being run as a profit making business; the decision geared to the vanity of one man, not the sporting public; disdain for the people of Alton; “no point being here”. In the end there was actually some sympathy for Everyone Active, with a feeling that they’ve been lumbered with a contract that will never be satisfactory, most of the criticism being aimed at EHDC for their arrogance.

Pam Jones (on the panel as opposition leader) spoke eloquently, reflecting the dismay and anger that is felt by the public at the Alton Town Council appearing (so far) to rubber-stamp EHDC’s plans. She would ask for the RM application to come before Full Council (rather than the members that make up the Planning committee), in view of the critical issues at stake.

Overall, the saddest aspect is that what should have been a cause for celebration (state of the art facilities, and a potential flagship for Alton) remains a source of huge resentment – even bitterness and anger. EHDC have dug themselves a hole from which they can’t escape.