Local residents demand answers on Kingfisher debacle
(Thursday 30 March 23)
Local residents unhappy with the lack of progress on building the new leisure centre to replace the demolished Kingfisher Pool attended the Corporate and Resources Committee meeting dressed in swimming costumes demanding an apology and a detailed plan.
1. What is the expected timeline for the development of a new leisure centre: 2. What measures is the council taking to address the financial pressures that have caused the delay? 3. Who is in charge of this process and accountable to residents?
The petitions ( which can still be signed) also says:
We believe that the lack of transparency surrounding this issue is unacceptable and that the new process should be transparent to taxpayers. Therefore, we also demand that the council provide regular updates on the progress of the new leisure centre and that all relevant information be made available to the public.
The meeting opened with questions from the public. Former LibDem councillor Jon Tolley, who resigned over his own party’s lack of transparency surrounding the demolition of the existing swimming pool asked when had the Council known the project was not deliverable on time or to budget and when would they apologise? The Council leader Andreas Kirsch repeated his message from the 10th March press release that world factors had increased costs beyond the council’s control and the right thing to do was to pause and regroup but that it was not possible to provide accurate costing and timings for whatever is next but that it has the full attention of his team.
Local resident Anna Gorrell asked how much had been spent on the project to date, and said:
“…because of the decisions of this council children are growing up without access to a swimming pool. I am here for the young people who can’t get swimming lessons, because waiting lists are so long, and private gyms are unaffordable. We have a generation of kids who will leave primary school unable to swim.”
“The council said they’d fix the roof, and then they changed their mind. They said there would be a new pool by 2023, then they pushed the date back. They said it would cost £39million, then that became £53million, now £79million. Crucially, the council Leadership stood for election only last year promising a ”brand new state of the art leisure centre in 2024.’And during the election campaign they told everyone who said this exact situation would happen that we were wrong. You will forgive residents for having lost faith in the promises of this administration.”
Mediha Boran, of the Kingston Society and the author of the petition said after the meeting :
“The feeling by the attendees was that their questions had not been answered, there was no apology and it was difficult to maintain trust in the council to be honest and transparent and to admit to making mistakes.