“As Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, I pledged last month to make it my biggest local priority to get a new sports centre built on the part-derelict King Alfred site on the seafront in my constituency.
In that short of space of time, my Conservative council colleagues and I have been overwhelmed by just how much support is out there for new sports facilities on this highly visible site.
The current building was built as Hove Marina in 1939. It was requisitioned by the Navy and renamed HMS King Alfred for the war effort soon afterwards. The name stuck. A revamp took place during the 1980s, which my colleague Cllr Garry Peltzer Dunn remembers well, where flumes and a new pool were added. Hove Council innovatively sold land elsewhere to fund the improvements.
We now need to encourage parties of the Left to get over their ideological block on funding. The prime objective must be to replace the current tired leisure centre with a new one that says to all – residents, visitors and tourists alike – that we are serious about sport. Towns like Worthing, Burgess Hill, and Crawley are far ahead and we are now struggling to catch up.
Coming strongly from residents is a message that the council should be careful about loading too much housing on the site just to satisfy targets. If the scheme, which will inevitably involve private builders, is to be a success then it can’t be too complicated. It should be kept simple and focused. We don’t want to again annoy everybody that lives nearby, something that ward councillor Andrew Wealls has made clear to me.
I will be arranging a public meeting with Cllr Geoffrey Theobald early next year so that my constituents can tell builders what form a new centre should take. Several contenders, including Centurion, Rob Starr and Totem, are keen to get to work on schemes right away. We should have a competition to find the best design then let the winner get on with it. In the meantime, my constituent Simon James is keen to provide a temporary ice rink above the abandoned bowling alley. Get behind him, I say.
Like my constituents, I want a new sports centre in Hove for the benefit of all local residents. The figures stack up. Momentum is building up. Builders are ready to put it up. Let’s hope that the council doesn’t mess it up.”