• CarolineShah

Will Grant Thornton act at the last hour to save Kingston's Kingfisher Leisure Centre?

Updated: Aug 1

Kingston Council appears not to have authorised either any plans to demolish The Kingfisher or the specific plans for a new leisure centre that were put by officers to the council as a replacement

The demolition of The Kingfisher is planned to start on 1 August 2022 and I believe that it is of the utmost urgency that Grant Thornton, using their powers as Kingston Council (the "council")'s auditors under The Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014, act immediately to stop it

On 10 February 2022, the council, through its Place Committee, resolved to approve the “provision of a new community leisure centre in Kingston Town Centre subject to planning permission”. This resolution was interlinked with the approval of the recommendations in the council’s Indoor Leisure Facilities Strategy at the same meeting. Officers stated both in the report to Members (point 19) and in the Indoor Leisure Facilities Strategy itself (page E36) that:

“The council has determined to replace the leisure centre on its existing footprint”.

The resolution in Appendix F approving plans to provide a new community leisure centre does not mention anything about the footprint of the replacement new leisure centre. The assumption made by members approving the resolution to provide a new leisure centre, and relying on information provided by officers in the report as a whole, must by default therefore have been that the footprint of any new leisure centre that would be the subject of a planning application submitted by council officers would comply with the council's determination and be on the same footprint as that of the existing Kingfisher

However, planning application 22/00602/FUL submitted by officers of the council for a new leisure centre clearly ignores this stipulation. The planning application is for a new leisure centre that will gobble up nearly 1200 square metres of what is currently protected open space

Council officers must surely therefore have acted outside of their delegated authority by spending money on preparing and submitting a planning application for a replacement leisure centre that – in increasing the footprint of the existing Kingfisher building - is not in line with what was agreed by the council – that the footprint should be the same as the existing one? And, in such a situation, the council would not be able legally to implement planning application 22/00602/FUL because it is not for what they agreed it to be for

Any demolition of The Kingfisher would result in a loss of money to local taxpayers and leave us without any sporting and community facilities, and with no council-endorsed plans for any replacement leisure centre

If The Kingfisher is demolished tomorrow, it seems that we will be left with no leisure centre at all

Council members, representing local taxpayers, have clearly stated that any replacement leisure centre should only fill the footprint of the existing Kingfisher

This is a material conflict and a matter of substance that cannot be easily or quickly resolved

And we must also remember that the council has never resolved separately to demolish The Kingfisher Leisure Centre

Grant Thornton must take immediate action on behalf of residents to stop the demolition of The Kingfisher tomorrow

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