But the council’s Tory Group has opposed the £31m project, calling it Waverley’s HS2.
There was overwhelming support from every council member for replacing Cranleigh’s existing centre, whose very existence was now in doubt. Built in the 1960s with a 50-year lifespan, it is well past its sell-by date. Over the next five years, it could cost £7 million to keep it operating safely as it pumps out 11% of Waverley’s carbon emissions.
But the ‘state of the art’ energy-efficient Passivhaus replacement, heralded by the administration as the gold standard of leisure centres, in line with Waverley’s Climate Change Agenda, was opposed by the Tory Group led by Cllr Jane Austin (Con, Bramley, Wonersh), who had a different tale to tell.
Cllr Austin believed there were cheaper energy-efficient options, for which she held details, As a regular centre user, she believed these should be investigated. She claimed that the financial information provided (in an Exempt part of the meeting closed to the press and public) didn’t stack up. She accused the administration of not providing enough information to members and insufficient consultation with centre users and the public.
This was scotched by Portfolio Holder and Cranleigh Cllr Liz Townsend, who has worked tirelessly for years to get the project underway. The Health Centre, The Co-op, the Cranleigh Market traders, and users had all been consulted. During the May elections, every councillor now representing Cranleigh had received support on residents’ doorsteps.
Cllr Michael Goodridge (Con accused the administration of providing insufficient details on the ‘facility mix’ in the new centre. (eg. How many lanes are in the pool?)
We want to know what we are getting for our money, and so do the taxpayers.
He was slapped down by Officer Kelvin Mills, who revealed everyone had been provided with this information at the outset. Nothing had changed from the original specification. Cllr Townsend responded there would not be eight lanes, and the taxpayers would not be funding it. It would pay for itself with up to 70% energy savings from (CIL) Community Infrastructure levies imposed on developers and borrowings.
Calling for delay was unnecessary, said leader Cllr Paul Follows; every councillor had received and been provided with adequate information and could have asked for more if required. Why didn’t you, he asked?
Cllr Carole Cockburn (Con Farnham) said:
We are not coming here to nod something through, costing millions of pounds without having some certainty about the budget.
Cllr Townsend said the recommendation before the council was based on ‘evidence’ and sound financial prudence. We can only provide you with the exact costs once we have reached the design stage, and any increase would have to be agreed upon by the council. We cannot put the cart before the horse. Once we have something to show people, we will consult everyone in the community to delay the project, would put us, the existing centre and the council at risk. She and others warned Cranleigh and the eastern villages could be left with nothing. No centre, no income.
Cranleigh Leisure Centre is hanging by its fingernails!
This recommendation was passed by 33 votes for and 12 Against.
That a revised capital budget of £31,137,252, as shown in the financial viability assessment at Exempt Annexe 1, be agreed to deliver a new-build Cranleigh Leisure Centre;
- The leisure centre is built to Passivhaus certification standards;
III. That authority be delegated to the Joint Director for Place, in consultation with the relevant portfolio holder, to submit a planning application in respect of the proposed new build;
- That authority be delegated to the Joint Director for Transformation and Governance, in consultation with the relevant portfolio holder, to conduct the procurement of a contractor for the build and all related professional services, including, but not limited to, the Employers Agent and Design team;
- That authority be delegated to the Joint Executive Head of Legal and Democratic Services to complete and execute all necessary contractual documents.