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  • Writer's pictureCarolineShah

Is Kingston Council’s heritage vision another unaffordable mirage?

There is no plan or funding for a new heritage centre in Kingston

Kingston council's consultation for a new leisure centre did not give us all the facts

In their “engagement” exercise, Kingston council told us that they want to connect better their proposed new leisure centre to Kingston’s Museum and Library and asked for our opinion on their design plans

My fifth question relates to whether the plans for a new leisure centre are actually linked in any way to the possible regeneration of Kingston's Heritage Museum and Library

Question Five

Did Kingston Council tell us that plans to link their new leisure centre with Kingston Museum and Library do not include plans or funding to regenerate those buildings and create a heritage centre

But Kingston Council did NOT tell us:

· The £40 million put aside in the council’s budget (but not yet raised in cash) does not include any money to renovate or improve the museum and library or to create a heritage centre for Kingston. This is just a pipe dream, reliant on raising lottery funding

· There is no cash to fund any improvements to the Museum or the Library

· How the reorientation plans for the new leisure centre will be affected by planned development on the Cattle Market Car Park which may include several towers that will be taller than 16 storeys (Source: Alan Baxter - Preliminary Heritage Advice Note for Guildhall Redevelopment Programme April 2021: "It is understood that options are being explored for the creation of taller buildings of upwards of 16 storeys within the Kingfisher/Cattle Market sites.")

· How much protected open space and other existing open space will be lost as a result of these plans

· How many mature trees and green space will be lost as a result of the reorientation and linking of buildings across the area

The complete lack of funding to protect and enhance some of Kingston’s most valuable heritage has just come to light in a post on Facebook by The Kingston Society* in which they announced the need for Kingston Council to make a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to create a new “King Athelstan visitor centre”

It is clear from the post that the aim of such a centre would be to attract visitors to Kingston which only increases existing concerns that the proposed new leisure centre will be a wholly commercial venture.

The lack of any community use agreements and affordable pricing policy for any of the sporting facilities proposed in the new centre aggravates concerns that plans for the whole "regeneration" of Kingston do not consider the interests of existing residents or consider whether the plans provide value for money for local taxpayers as they are required by law to do

*Announcement on 13 June by The Kingston Society on their Facebook Page relating to a public meeting of the Society on 15 June 2022 (my highlighting):

“Kingston has a fine library and museum.

Kingston plans to replace the Kingfisher leisure centre on that same municipal site.

What an opportunity to complement it with a King Athelstan visitor centre, a local history centre.

A new King Athelstan visitor centre would celebrate the unique Saxon heritage of Kingston highlighting King Athelstan in particular and the part he played in shaping our country at a time when there was disunity, civil strife and invasion.

The museum is already too small.

It is a world leading site for Muybridge artefacts and the Marsh collection of ceramics as well as an art gallery with pictures of historic import. This development could create a heritage hub in Kingston. To make this vision come alive it needs the full support of the council in submitting a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and linking it in with the development of the new leisure centre.

It would also need all stakeholders** - political parties, Friends of the museum, Kingston Society, Kingston university and many others - to show their commitment.

And the reward is a heritage hub that attracts visitors to Kingston, its hotels and places to stay, its restaurants, its shops and its theatre.”

** no mention of residents

If you think Kingston Council did not tell us everything we needed to know in order to give proper answers to their questions about the facilities being offered in the proposed new leisure centre, donate to the fundraiser now to see if there are legal grounds to ask the council to reconsider its plans

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