Full steam ahead with Kingston Kingfisher demolition while replacement plans are lost in the fog
Updated: May 9
The question remains "Why doesn't Kingston Council simply repair The Kingfisher roof?"
Why have Kingston Council's plans for a new leisure centre stalled?
The Kingston Borough Liberal Democrats candidates collectively claimed in a leaflet sent to residents as part of their election campaign that:
"work is starting this summer to build a new leisure centre in Kingston Town on the site of the old Kingfisher"
However, the current lack of a borough-wide Outdoor Leisure Facilities Strategy and Playing Pitch Strategy and the existence only of a draft Indoor Leisure Facilities Strategy mean the planning application for a new leisure centre is stalled and cannot feasibly go to committee for approval until these strategies have been completed
In a report to Place Committee on 10 February 2022, council officers stated that:
"A refreshed Outdoor Leisure Facilities Strategy will be presented to Committee later this year"
It is clear that Kingston's councillors simply are not in a position to assess the adequacy of proposed facilities in a new Kingston Town leisure centre and therefore must not approve a planning application for a new leisure centre until such leisure facility strategy documents and final assessments of latent demand and need have been approved
Sport England response to Kingston's plans has been withheld from public scrutiny whilst random excerpts been published
A new document entitled "Response to Sport England" has been added to the planning application for the new leisure centre in recent days or weeks. It is therefore public. In this document, Kingston Council's advisor responds on the council's behalf only to some of the issues that Sport England has raised in its response on the planning application but ignores many others
I have had sight of Sport England's response but Kingston Council has refused to make the response public
I have appealed the council's decision and asked them to publish the whole response without delay on the basis that publication of only parts of Sport England's response is misleading and does not allow proper public scrutiny and debate of the planning application. I also argue that publication of the response is in the public interest given the large amounts of money being spent on the project and the number of people affected by the lack of a public pool and other public facilities in the area. I also believe that the council's assertion that the Sport England response is confidential is not right when the council itself has published selected excerpts from it
I believe that there is an overriding interest that the whole of Sport England's response of 23 March 2022 is published as it raises issues and makes comments that the council's response has not addressed
Issues arising from the planning application that are covered and published by Kingston Council in the Response to Sport England include practical challenges for families arising from a toddler pool that is completely separate from the other pools in the proposed centre and rooftop football pitches that do not appear to meet Football Association standards. This is not taking in to account the fact that no proper assessment of need across the Borough has yet taken place
The draft assessment of latent demand and need for Indoor Leisure Facilities is inadequate to determine the facilities needed at a new leisure centre in Kingston Town
When commenting on provision at nearby sports facilities, the assessment does not give any detailed information of the facilities provided by other providers in Kingston
For example, the assessment only states that David Lloyd Kingston has a gym, a 20 metre pool and studios with no further details given, and that it costs £70 a month - which is only one membership option. In regards to both Nuffield Kingston and David Lloyd together, the assessment simply states that the two clubs together have about 10,000 members and are "clearly targetting the affluent people in the area". Of Nuffield Health in Surbiton, the assessment asserts that it costs £100 per month to be a member
In reference to More Energy at Kingston university, the assessment mentions it has a gym that costs £30 a month to join when in fact there is a joining option for £20 with discounts for students, and of Fitness for Less in New Malden, its merely states that it has a gym, pool and classes and costs £24.99 per month to be a member when the actual cost is £32.99. There is no mention of the size of the gym or of the pool or any information on the types of classes offered and what studio place is on offer
Residents face many more years without a pool in Kingston Town
I have been in contact with Swim England. It appears that a new centre could take about 2.5 to 3.5 years from where plans are now until a centre is finished, assuming a cleared site is ready and available for development, assuming that budgeted funding has been raised and assuming that there are no unexpected delays
Given that demolition of the existing Kingfisher could take a year or more as detailed searches for archaeological artefacts need to take place in case items of national significance lie beneath and around the centre -
A new leisure centre may not be open until December 2026 at the earliest
This goes against another message sent by Council Leader Andreas Kirsch on behalf of all Kingston Borough Liberal Democrat Candidates to residents by email on 29 April 2022 that a centre will open by 2024
Surely, the planned demolition of The Kingfisher Leisure Centre simply must not go ahead while so much uncertainty exists about what facilities a new leisure centre will contain and when - if ever - it will be built
Kingston Council must now repair the roof of The Kingfisher and refurbish and upgrade the leisure centre
There is still time