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  • Writer's pictureCarolineShah

Kingston new leisure centre - from an Asset of Community Value in to an unaffordable commercial one?

...Smoke and mirrors - turning a community asset in to a commercial one not fit for a King

In 2021, Save Royal Kingston, a Community Group made up of residents from across the borough of Kingston upon Thames, successfully listed The Kingfisher Leisure centre and the whole of its site as an Asset of Community Value

This listing as an Asset of Community Value means that The Kingfisher Leisure Centre and play park should be protected for community use for five years until 15 September 2026

Here is the listing on Kingston Council's website:

Council officers in their report to Planning Committee on 26 May 2022 advised Members deciding the planning application that the listing of The Kingfisher and play park as an Asset of Community Value had little weight:

Point 226 of the officers' report to Planning Committee 26 May 2022

The key here is the policy requirement to "protect community facilities"

The fact that the council calls its planned new centre a "community facility" is neither here nor there

What matters is whether the facility will really be available and affordable and accessible to the community

Therein lies the rub

The planning application approved by The Planning Committee on 26 May 2022 contains no community use agreement of any kind for any of the sports and leisure facilities that the centre will contain. Neither does the application promise any affordable pricing policy for the services that it will offer

At the planning committee meeting, the only condition regarding community use that was agreed was that there should be vague "community use" agreed for a meeting room in the centre that has a kitchenette

This has nothing to do with sports and leisure activities

Officers gave no assurance to Members that any of the sporting and leisure facilities in the proposed new centre will be as available and accessible and affordable to the community as the facilities currently are at The Kingfisher Leisure Centre

I go back once again to The Football Federation's comment on the rather-too-small 5-aside pitches planned on the roof of the new centre:

Excerpt from the officers' report to Planning Committee 26 May 2022

It seems as though Kingston Council is ridding itself of The Kingfisher Leisure Centre - a truly affordable, accessible and available community-based leisure centre, and "transforming" it in to a commercial affair, whilst using smoke and mirrors to conceal its true plans from residents

The ultimate irony for Kingston's residents is that - however unaffordable or inaccessible or unavailable it will be for the majority of us - the new leisure centre will be listed as an Asset of Community Value by the council until 2026, as there is no mechanism for de-listing such assets

This is why we must do whatever we can to stop Kingston Council's plans NOW

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