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Help Save White Oak Leisure Centre in Swanley

HexHex
edited November 13 in Other Football and Sports

Help !      Help Me !      Help Us !

White Oak Leisure Centre in Swanley (WOLC) is really a sports centre.  Much of it is over 50 years old and with the help of Sevenoaks District Council (SDC) is fast getting to the stage where it has to be replaced.

SDC, having passed on replacement plans costing £7.35m in 2013, have developed a cunning plan.  Since February they have been promoting their plans for a new leisure centre, located on a pleasant grassed area, populated by mature trees in the corner of the White Oak site.  It all looks and sounds fantastic until you realise that something is missing.

WOLC has a 33m L-shaped pool, 3 flumes and a diving pit suitable for the 5m board.  There is spectator seating for 250.  There is a 6-badminton-court sports hall, 3 squash courts and a number of variously sized studios.

Sports and leisure activities available, via pay & play or club membership, include Squash, Badminton, roller hockey, gymnastics, athletics training, netball, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, table tennis, short tennis, short mat bowls, 5-a-side football, archery, trampolining, swimming, synchronised swimming, water polo,  sub aqua, diving, triathlon, aqua fit, deep water aerobics, police and fire service deep water training, flumes, primemovers, pilates etc.  There is also toddler gym, toddler sport, dancing competitions, cat & dog shows, wrestling events, roller disco etc.

SDC’s new leisure activity centre, priced at £20m, will have a 25m pool, larger gym, 2 studios and TAG Active.

After much pressure, SDC have re-jigged the mix by adding a moveable floor to the pool, a small spectator area and replaced Parkour with an indoor “multi use area” the size of 2 badminton courts.

SDC have recently submitted a planning application.  On the first page of their Planning Statement they make the following claim This Planning Statement seeks to demonstrate that the proposals will not result in the loss of leisure facilities.

So here, again, is the list of sports and leisure activities that should still be available, but with those that won’t, crossed out.

Squash, Badminton, roller hockey, gymnastics, athletics training, netball, Karate, Judo, Taekwondo, table tennis, short tennis, short mat bowls, 5-a-side football, archery, trampolining, swimming, synchronised swimming, water polo, sub aqua, diving, triathlon, aqua fit, deep water aerobics, police and fire service deep water training, flumes, primemovers, pilates, toddler gym, toddler sport, dancing competitions, cat & dog shows, wrestling events, roller disco etc.

Note, martial arts may not be available as the studios may be too small and everything else will face fierce competition for space and time.

WOLC has a catchment area far beyond the boundaries of Sevenoaks district so losing all of these facilities will be disastrous for sport in SE London and Kent.  Many of you have probably used the facilities or have family and friends that do.

So, please, if you can, make appropriate comments on the SDC planning website (planning ref:  19/02951/HYB  by 22 Nov), let your councillors know what you think and please, help SPREAD THE WORD.

You will find much more information on Facebook group SaveWOLC.

Thanks


Comments

  • edited November 14
    Done.

    Live in the Borough myself but grew up in Kidbrooke and can remember friends getting the bus to White Oak’s for the flumes and diving boards. You make a good point re having a catchment area beyond Sevenoaks.

    Took my young nephew a couple of years ago, he had a great time.

    There can’t be many leisure pools like White Oak left. Remember Fantaseas in Dartford being great as a kid. 

    Thanks for sharing 
  • Done.  Any place that has a water slide gets my backing!!
  • Like to point out they have a Narrow Gauge Model Railway Exhibition there every October

    If thats not a reason to try and save the Sports Centre (along with saving a Sports facility and jobs) then I dont know what is on CharltonLife!!
  • I'm aware there is outrage about dropping the sports hall in the proposed replacement White Oak leisure centre. Over 900 regular members of clubs use this hall + casual users. Little or no consultation and users not even contacted for their views. Shame on Sevenoaks District Council.
  • Sad but predictable.

    25 years ago played a lot of squash.....courts always in big demand.

    Now live in Essex but no harm sticking in my two pennyworth
  • Very disappointing to lose the sports hall. However it is very underused at the moment for a variety of reasons. 
    It is, however, important to get some facts straight. 
    Firstly there has been some consultation which included consulting with regular user groups of the existing hall. This has led to some changes to the original plans. Most notably the multi use area which will allow badminton and short tennis to be continued and I suspect some others like trampolining. 
    Several versions of the plans have been in existence over the last few years and many of us have canvassed our local councillors without much satisfactory response although there have been some improvements made.
    Clearly it is a big cut back from what is on offer at the moment and disappointing. 
    SDC state the lack of use of existing facilities (eg squash courts almost never used) and the consultation they have undertaken as the main reasons for plans they have at the moment. However another big factor is cost. This funded by the proposed housing development and then will fall on SDC tax payers. 
    SDC will also point out that they have 3 leisure centres in the district to fund so resources have to be scattered. If you could convince London Boroughs and Dartford to contribute I'm sure further consideration will be given. 

    Basically provision of sports facilities a much wider problem than White Oak
  • redman said:
    Very disappointing to lose the sports hall. However it is very underused at the moment for a variety of reasons. 
    It is, however, important to get some facts straight. 
    Firstly there has been some consultation which included consulting with regular user groups of the existing hall. This has led to some changes to the original plans. Most notably the multi use area which will allow badminton and short tennis to be continued and I suspect some others like trampolining. 
    Several versions of the plans have been in existence over the last few years and many of us have canvassed our local councillors without much satisfactory response although there have been some improvements made.
    Clearly it is a big cut back from what is on offer at the moment and disappointing. 
    SDC state the lack of use of existing facilities (eg squash courts almost never used) and the consultation they have undertaken as the main reasons for plans they have at the moment. However another big factor is cost. This funded by the proposed housing development and then will fall on SDC tax payers. 
    SDC will also point out that they have 3 leisure centres in the district to fund so resources have to be scattered. If you could convince London Boroughs and Dartford to contribute I'm sure further consideration will be given. 

    Basically provision of sports facilities a much wider problem than White Oak
    @Redman
    Unfortunately you appear to have fallen for SDC’s misinformation, also known as their planning application.

    Firstly, the hall is NOT underused.  SDC’s own strategy document puts usage at 61% (the 47% mentioned relates to Wilderness School but is wrongly assigned to White Oak).  Sport England regard 80% usage as full capacity, so White Oak’s sports hall can be regarded as over 75% full.

    Secondly, 4 clubs contacted SDC for meetings.  There was no consultation.  Cllr Peter Fleming (Leader, SDC) attendee one such meeting in the sports hall.  He did a lot of talking, some of it less than accurate, and no listening.  He did admit that the hall was in good structural condition and fit for purpose.  It does need a refurb, though.  Apart from stating 96% of people wanted a leisure centre in Swanley, there is no data, no analysis, no reference to consultation results.  That’s because there has been no consultation apart from the location of the leisure centre.

    The seating and movable pool floor were due to considerable badgering by the swimming and water polo clubs and Swim England.  However, given earlier replacement designs by the same consultants included a movable floor, I wonder what game was being played.

    The multi use area offers very little, as SDC were told before they added it.  Sport England state 4 badminton courts is the minimum size of a sports hall.  Whilst pay & play badminton may be possible, it is too small for clubs use, us it is too small for almost all current clubs.

    If SDC really do have usage figures then let them publish them !  They have refused FOI requests.  I wonder why ?

    White Oak has 3 squash courts but you need 4 for competitions.  Their strategy report stated squash courts should be retained.

    Regarding costs, the most obvious question to be answered is how does the smaller SDC plan cost twice as much as their larger inflation-adjusted 2013 estimate ?

    I do agree that sports provision is a wider problem than White Oak !
  • @Hex 
    certainly not trying to cause a big argument here because, as a user of the sports hall, I am deeply disappointed by the reduction in facilities. However I was trying to add some balance to the argument and at least partially present some justification for the decision (not saying I agree with it or am happy with it). 
    In fact I actively pursued and challenged the previous plan with letters strongly argued letters to councillors. Although not receiving satisfactory responses the plans were in fact changed to include the multi purpose sports hall, which wasn't present in the previous plan. 

    I have no actual statistics to back up any usage figures except what I actually see and in talking to other users. And what I see is gross underuse and all times of the day. It is rare to see the squash courts used - if someone asked me to put a figure when I go I would say way below 10%. The sports hall is also very under used. Quite regularly when I am there we have the place to ourselves. 
    Having said that I believe this partly due to the deteriorating facilities there. The sports hall is very tired, stuff peeling off the walls, nets not working, floor with holes and bumps and rarely cleaned. 

    I understand that it is only the swimming pool that makes a profit, with the rest of the current facilities showing a loss. As to the costs for various proposals I have no idea other than to say any new facility would be a significant cost. 

    If you are able to get a better facility you would have my full support. 
     
  • @Redman

    While I am happy for you to attempt to provide balance, you are on very dodgy ground if you quote from SDC’s literature and planning documents.   SDC have tried to get this scheme through at breakneck speed before anybody notices.  They have, from the start, produced responses to letters and emails, and made statements in meetings that push the boundaries of the truth.  This has continued with their planning application.  How do you relate their first page statement, This Planning Statement seeks to demonstrate that the proposals will not result in the loss of leisure facilities, with reality ?

    Originally they referred to the 2-court “multi-use area” as a multi-use sports hall.  SDC quickly changed that as it is undefendable.

    I agree that the hall, like the rest of the buildings, need a refurb, or at least a good clean.  SDC have for some years now had a policy of do absolutely nothing to the building unless it is unavoidably necessary.  This is borne out by their own report on the buildings from a year ago.   I also agree that numbers may be falling, for the reason you have stated but also due to the lack of publicity of what is available.  For example, I witnessed a prospective Primetime Badminton customer being told at reception that they couldn’t help but to find a particular cleaner who should be able to help !

    I know nothing of the level of use of the squash courts, although they are used for table tennis, but your assessment of hall usage is laughable (sorry).  For example, Primetime badminton, with 100+ members and session usage between 25 and 45 on average, has 3 mornings a week totalling 9 hours.  Assuming hall availability 9-9 7 days a week then that is 10% alone.  Add in the many activities, clubs and multi-use then I think you easily get to the 61% in the SDC document, Sports Facility Strategy July 2017.

    While pools are expensive to build and run but generate much larger income, particularly from swimming lessons, sports halls have relatively low build costs, low maintenance costs but low income.

    According to Sport England it is perfectly possible to run a sports centre at a profit, especially if it is larger rather than smaller.  When I get time I will try to post an analysis of construction costs.

    I hope you see fit (!) to object to the planning application.






  • My local sports centre went through a similar change, which upset the swimming club as it lost the 33m pool with a diving board which was replaced by a slightly wider 25m pool with no diving board (as it was only 2m deep) and with the sports hall space reduced, with more space given to the gym (which I use). Gyms I imagine are more profitable, when you consider the number of aerobic and weight machines you can fit in to the same space taken up by one squash court.
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  • @Hex I am not sure why you are being so aggressive to me when I state I have actively challenged their proposals. 
     I still would dispute your actual usage figures. However there is no point in arguing the point as we both seem to agree it could better managed.
     I am very aware that the badminton club is fully subscribed because when I thought of joining the organiser quite rudely told me so and there was no point in pursuing and I was wasting his time. 

  • redman said:
    @Hex I am not sure why you are being so aggressive to me when I state I have actively challenged their proposals. 
     I still would dispute your actual usage figures. However there is no point in arguing the point as we both seem to agree it could better managed.
     I am very aware that the badminton club is fully subscribed because when I thought of joining the organiser quite rudely told me so and there was no point in pursuing and I was wasting his time. 

    Sorry @redman, I'm not meaning to be aggressive to you but SDC has been putting out misinformation for some time now and it has to be challenged.

    The usage figures come from SDC's own Sports Facility Strategy 200+ page document from 2017.  An interesting read !

    While there used to be a waiting list there isn't now cos there's nobody to run one.  Pay your £5.80 for Primetime and come to the sports hall any Monday, Thursday or Friday morning and you will be made most welcome.
  • The usage figures are well know and the sports hall is used much of the time and that is not surprising given the huge numbers of clubs that use it for a whole range of sports.  To suggest that it is little used would be very brave if lined up against the 900 or so club users.
  • edited November 15
    @hex no problem.
    Thanks for the offer but I probably won't take up your offer of badminton. I went just after I retired and was looking for activities. However my week is now filled with walking football, short tennis, walking and cycling. Used to do take heart fitness class at White Oak as well until they kept messing it and the instructors about!

     innocent questions though
     I presume your Monday is reasonably new. I often used to have a couple of games of short tennis after my take heart class and we basically had the hall to ourselves. 
  • redman said:
    @hex no problem.
    Thanks for the offer but I probably won't take up your offer of badminton. I went just after I retired and was looking for activities. However my week is now filled with walking football, short tennis, walking and cycling. Used to do take heart fitness class at White Oak as well until they kept messing it and the instructors about!

     innocent questions though
     I presume your Monday is reasonably new. I often used to have a couple of games of short tennis after my take heart class and we basically had the hall to ourselves. 
    It’s always been Monday mornings, well at least since 2012 !  Maybe if we lose this battle I will have to seek out alternative sports - but not Park Run ( if you are reading this Mrs Hex).
  • redman said:
    @hex no problem.
    Thanks for the offer but I probably won't take up your offer of badminton. I went just after I retired and was looking for activities. However my week is now filled with walking football, short tennis, walking and cycling. Used to do take heart fitness class at White Oak as well until they kept messing it and the instructors about!

     innocent questions though
     I presume your Monday is reasonably new. I often used to have a couple of games of short tennis after my take heart class and we basically had the hall to ourselves. 
    I used to do Take Heart on occasion until Sue left....
  • HexHex
    edited November 23
    Public Meeting
    (Swanley Town Council planning committee)

    Wednesday 27th November 2019
    7:30pm at The Alexandra Suite, Swanley, BR8 7BU
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