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Leisure centre plans in Amersham not impressing everyone

Swimming pool

Published by Dan Gooding at 1:47pm 7th February 2019.

Plans for a land-swap, to create a new leisure centre in Amersham, aren't pleasing people living nearby.

They've started a fight against the plans, to build the new centre on part of the King George playing fields.

They argue the development is too big and green space won't be protected, but the plans are yet to be decided on.

Local resident Jo Houghton said:

"We're not opposing the redevelopment of the site, we're objecting to the scale of the project which will see the loss of 25% of the King George V playing field, the majority of the green space in front of the library and a structure that will sit virtually up against Chiltern Avenue."

To date residents have registered 52 formal planning application objections, with just 14 in favour.

One of the driving forces is the loss of green space on the King George V playing field.

The council had advertised the loss of space as simply a small parcel of land but in truth this constitutes 25%.

Furthermore, the field is protected by Fields In Trust, an organization set up by King George V to project public open spaces.

The proposal from the council to get around the protection is to swap ownership of the field with that of the green on Woodside Close with the parish council, so that is protected instead.

Another resident, Darren Henderson, said:

"This swap makes the protection offered by Fields In Trust meaningless and the green on Woodside Close is already protected by a covenant from the Metropolitan Railway, dating back to the 1930s, so this is just the council trying every trick in the book to get it's own way." 

The other key issue for this group is around the size of the development.

The current plans would double the footprint of the current leisure centre with 'an extremely imposing structure', set right up against the road.

They say this would mean a much larger allocation of car parking spaces would be needed, but there will actually be fewer.

The group say Amersham is a small town of 17,000 residents, and ask why they need an International diving board but not a splash pool for children.

Furthermore, residents are unhappy with the Council's communications, with objections not mentioned in official council meetings, the non-disclosure of how the centre will be funded and what the potential development site will consist of.

Darren added:

"What we're looking for is for the council to scale back the plans so the facility is fit for purpose, retaining our green spaces, genuinely involve the community in the decision making process and come clean with the costs and the redevelopment site."

The Council said...

We asked Chiltern District Council about these concerns.

They said in a statement:

"Over the past two years we have held three public consultations which received 4,500 responses and demonstrated the overwhelming support for the new Lifestyle Centre.

"We held numerous public information events and listened to feedback from residents which has been incorporated in the design of the new centre where possible.

"If the scheme goes ahead the new centre, as well as being a significant employer, will provide a destination for older and younger people to visit, learn new skills and pass knowledge on to others.

"We have been open from the beginning of the project about how it will be funded and have published the draft business plan which requires the capital investment to be paid back by the income generated from the new centre as well as seeking to attract external funding towards the project from a range of agencies including Sport England.

"We acknowledge the proposal will include the loss of some green space, but we consider that investing in a new leisure and community centre will enable residents to benefit from the opportunities that may be provided and support an active and healthy lifestyle."

The plans are yet to be finalised by Chiltern District Council.

There will be a planning meeting on Thursday 14th February at 6pm.

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