Following our election in May 2019, one of our first public visits as councillors was to visit the track to speak with coaches and users. On a warm early summer evening it was clear to us how much this public facility means to people and how widely used it is in the community. Matt himself had visited the track many times before our election as a spectator at Broadbridge Heath Football Club (prior to their move) and as an assistant referee at a cup final hosted at this venue.
The facility provides an excellent resource for track sport, field events, football and also provides an opportunity to schools to use a facility that they would otherwise have no access to. Losing it would affect all groups of our community, but the younger generation would be most adversely affected. The closure of the track would mean those looking to practise athletics travelling outside of the district in order to do so. The natural consequence would be many young people failing to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
Any closure of the running track, therefore, should take place following the approval of planning permission for a replacement elsewhere in the district. This replacement track should be as accessible as the existing one and as publicly available for use. This would also allow the council to remain within National Planning Policy Framework guideline 97.
We are also not blind to the financial position the council finds itself in as outlined in the recently published Medium Term Financial Strategy. There are going to have to be difficult decisions made about what services the council can provide, and at what level. However, this does not mean we should be rushing to sell our assets without evaluating all of our options.
The future of the council, our economy and the services we provide has never been more uncertain. Close examination of the MTFS shows that in any event, transformation of our assets or not, the council’s finances will continue to deteriorate. Irrespective of the future of the running track, serious work needs to take place to ensure the prudent future of the council’s finances. Therefore, before any plans to close the track or any publicly owned asset are finalised, all other routes should be explored. We owe that to our residents.
Councillors Matt Allen and Louise Potter
Horsham District Councillors for Broadbridge Heath