Did the Tories use the promise of a new leisure centre to dupe Cranleigh residents into voting for them?

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Shortly before last year’s borough elections the Tories announced a huge £12.7m spending pot for improving leisure centres in Farnham, Godalming and building a new one in Cranleigh.

Millions will be poured into the borough’s leisure facilities​ – but Cranleigh could be the biggest winner with a £12.7m jackpot.

The Tories  accepted that the massive population increase in the east of the borough and the sorry state of existing facilities rendered it unfit  for the large influx of young families, so only Cranleigh should benefit from  a new build.

The EXECUTIVE gave the go-ahead for a detailed design and procurement exercise to extend  Farnham and Godalming leisure centres and for up plans for a new leisure centre in Cranleigh.

It anticipated that Godalming would have approximately 1,500 new homes, and Farnham 2,780, but although residents there are currently well served, with existing leisure facilities, improvements could be made. Haslemere Leisure Centre had received a £4.2m refurbishment in 2014. Cranleigh and its environs would 5,000 new homes.

It was agreed to set aside £3.2m to press ahead with detailed specifications for improvements at  Farnham and Godalming leisure centres, subject to negotiations with Places for People on their future management. However, Cranleigh would be the real winner in the borough’s leisure stakes with a new purpose-built centre, possibly on a new site?

Now over a year later – there are no firm plans for the development in Cranleigh and …

On Tuesday Tory Cllr Richard Seaborne (Bramley) asked officers would money be set aside for just the maintenance of  Cranleigh’s  Leisure Centre?

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He added. “Those of us in the east of the borough have raised the question of the absence of any eastern representation on the council’s EXECUTIVE. Which doesn’t give the area a “fair shout.”  Whilst future funding for projects in Godalming and Farnham was laudable,  what about Cranleigh and Dunsfold Park, why weren’t they on the list? 

Would funds be set aside to keep Cranleigh leisure Centre going until it was redeveloped? 

Officers gave assurances that a rolling programme of maintenance would continue to ensure Cranleigh’s centre continued to operate. But there was no mention of a new centre!

However, Finance director Graham Clarke advised there would be an opportunity for councillors in the East to bid for monies from the Community Infrastructure Fund through the CIL Advisory Board. Might be an idea to start that conversation NOW, he suggested.

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6 thoughts on “Did the Tories use the promise of a new leisure centre to dupe Cranleigh residents into voting for them?”

  1. I won’t get too much into the past other than to say that there is no way whatsoever the last executive of the previous administration or the Conservative Local Election campaign that followed could have met this manifesto pledge in any other way than borrowing (and borrowing quite a lot). We saw no models that could deliver this and a rate of return that was acceptable ready to go when we took over, and since then the base rate for the borrowing has gone up by 1% too.

    But that is ultimately by the by, as the current cross-party alliance then took over.

    Which leaves us with two directions. We could say – well, that wasn’t our promise, we didn’t make it and there is a good reason why we wouldn’t (not being groups that are happy to just say anything to get into power and figure it out later).

    But, actually what we have done is recognise that something does actually need to be done here. Other than the fairness and equality of provision across the borough, the cost of the old leisure centre and its maintenance is significant. The cost of even standing still is significant (and that before you think not just in terms of money but also in terms of Carbon, as our climate policy requires us to do).

    And so we have been through various models and none have (thus far) been considered workable.

    However we hope this to change and further options are being brought to our executive briefing session next Tuesday. If any of these look like they have potential I have offered to brief local councillors and the parish and go from there.

  2. Thank you for confirming the picture we painted. Tory promises that were thinner than pie crusts – our interpretation of course, not yours – you are too polite.

    However, as you infer we are where we are – stuck with a problem. From what we here at the WW have ascertained from the locals over there – and people who work in Cranleigh Leisure Centre – the situation is dire, and costs are escalating just for standing still. What happens if the boiler breaks down completely. It is literally limping along on a wing and a prayer.

    Great to hear that you are briefing the locals – and we look forward to hearing the results from the executive briefing.

    But those wild promises made by the Tories were disingenuous and should never have been made. There was no mention of borrowing money, and if our records are correct there was much made of monies coming from the hugely financially rewarding Blightwells development in Farnham, which would produce healthy rewards not just for Farnham, but the rest of the borough including Cranleigh?

  3. Can I also add that I and my fellow Parish Councillors have continued to press for a decision on this matter on behalf of Cranleigh residents and, although it may appear that Cranleigh does not get a ‘fair shout’ on the Executive, I can assure you that I am never silent.

  4. I am afraid I think this is appalling – Cranleigh has had to take a Huge proportion of Housing and being the Smallest of the 4 Towns that percentage is disproportionate… and I understand that money is tight – But jamming houses into Cranleigh and not providing much needed facilities for all the new residents as well as the existing is just wrong. I am glad that is recognised – Now lets see some action

    1. Denise – totally recognised in terms of the housing increase. And I frequently challenge councillors who have to go to meetings in Cranleigh and the east in general to use public transport so they get a flavour of that challenge too.

  5. Sadly the Conservatives made promises that now the Rainbow Coalition has to carry out. Tough call in view of how cash-strapped local authorities are – thanks to Government cuts.

    However, you are quite right – Cranleigh and the eastern villages have taken a disproportionate amount of the development imposed on the borough. So now the infrastructure must catch up.

    We hope for all your sakes over there that Cllr Follows and his team can find a way forward. If it cannot do so, then you know who to blame!

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