Community hubs vs town leisure centres and swimming pools
Whilst not all existing leisure centres have swimming pools there are swimming pools in most of Wiltshire's towns. At present Wiltshire does have access to swimming pools that the town residents and locals may go to often just by walking. Trowbridge has its own pool and this is located in the grounds of Clarendon College. The pool can thus serve the needs of both the school and the local community.
Schools teach children to swim and at present Wiltshire has a number of clubs whose members have difficulty getting enough swim training time. This includes young athletes that represent England as well as Wiltshire.
The problem for Wiltshire is that there is a calculated cost of 93 million pounds to run these centres and pools for the next fifteen years, as reported in the Wiltshire Times 16 July 2010. The calculation is based on 13 locations. The average cost is thus £477 thousand pounds a year. Is this a mistake? If not how much is that costing the rate payer a year? The population of Wiltshire one of the largest counties by area in England is 456 thousand. The cost per ratepayer, excluding any government contribution is then £1,046 a year. The figure is based on £93,000,000 so is the 93 million pound figure correct? Sounds wrong to me.
The Wiltshire plan
Wiltshire Council plans to either close or transfer the 13 leisure centres to local town control. The leisure centres that are closed will be sold off and the money saved used to offset the building of five new community "hubs" at Melksham, Warminster and Trowbridge. These new hubs will contain some leisure but there is no guarantee if this will include swimming pools. The hubs will also replace 95 properties that the council properties. This will mean the hubs will incorporate other council services.
Irrespective of the claimed cost of keeping the status quo there is still going to be an additional cost if these "hubs" are going to be built of over 117 million pounds. What about the users? Surely it is against the glossy new Wiltshire Plan.
What will happen is that people will need to get in their car and motor off to these "hubs" when at present they can use town based pools and leisure centres. Planning will have to rubber stamp the application to build the hubs even though they should be thrown out as being subject to planning policy in particular Wiltshire and Swindon Structure plan 2016. The proposed developments would breach policy DP1 on all points, except item 6 below:
DP1 IN PURSUIT OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, PARTICULAR PRIORITY SHOULD BE GIVEN TO:
- MEETING LOCAL NEEDS FOR JOBS, SERVICES AND AFFORDABLE AND SPECIAL NEEDS HOUSING IN ALL SETTLEMENTS
- MEETING THE NEEDS OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
- ACHIEVING A PATTERN OF LAND-USES AND ASSOCIATED TRANSPORT LINKS WHICH MINIMISE THE NEED TO TRAVEL AND SUPPORT THE INCREASED USE OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT, CYCLING AND WALKING
- MAXIMISING THE POTENTIAL FOR ENERGY CONSERVATION AND ACCOMMODATING PROPOSALS FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY
- IMPROVING THE AMENITY OF SETTLEMENTS
- MINIMISING THE LOSS OF COUNTRYSIDE AND PROTECTING AND ENHANCING THE PLAN AREA'S ENVIRONMENTAL ASSETS.
I think that the majority of Wiltshire people will be unable, if not unwilling, to bear the cost of that travel and find the time to use the leisure facilities. I can't see how schools will be able to bus their children to these hubs so that they can learn to swim. DP1 3, 5
Obesity is a growing problem in the UK and Wiltshire has a growing problem, literally. Time spent on leisure activities, physical leisure activities, is important and has been written into Wiltshire's Overweight and Obesity Strategy It is worth reading a part of that document:
"The prevalence of obesity has trebled since the 1980s2. In 2006, 24% of adults were classified as obese, which represents an overall increase from 15% in 1993. Being overweight or obese is also increasing in children. In 2006, 16% of children aged 2-15 years were classified as obese, representing an increase from 11% in 1995. If the proportion of obese children continues to rise, a whole generation may have a shorter average life expectancy than their parents.
The Foresight Report suggests that by 2015, 36% of men and 28% of women aged 21-60 living in England will be obese. By 2025, this is forecast to rise to 47% for men and 36% for women. Overweight and obesity prevalence is predicted to double by 2025 among young people. By 2050 Britain could be a mainly obese society".
One of the important components of the strategy is to "build physical activity into our lives" what the HUB Plan will do is make access to essential physical activity more remote, except for those that live near a hub. DP1 1,2 also DP3 1,2
Questions and suggestions
First has someone made an error in their calculations 93 million pounds? Next why does it cost so much to provide these leisure services? Are they run properly? How much do other counties pay for their leisure services? If it's similar then that's the cost.
Whilst existing centres may be less energy efficient their planned replacement is not urgent. More provision should be made to supply leisure services in town and therefore accessible to local people who may walk to them.
The present plan is force people to travel to these hubs. Hub means a centre and that is exactly the right word for these places. Not only people seeking leisure activities but council employees will be displaced from the 95 properties that they work in at present to travel from where they live and converge on the hub. These hubs would be surrounded by car parks!
Trowbridge could have had a large leisure centre similar to Swindon's Link Centre with not only a swimming pool - a proper sized pool, but an ice rink as well. Instead we have another supermarket. what need is there for another supermarket? Surely the people of Trowbridge don't need another supermarket? So where's the custom going to come from surrounding towns or poached from other supermarkets? And what concern was there for the unavoidable increase in traffic in the centre of Trowbridge. So much for planning!
Comments and suggestions are most welcome :)
Bradford on Avon footbridge
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One million pounds for a footbridge!
I understand from an article published on www.bradfordonavon.com that the town council is prepared to spend the best part of a million pounds on a new cycle/footbridge. The bridge will cross the Avon from the Kingston Mills development to the town library. Whilst I cannot claim to represent the residents of Bradford and surrounding districts I can contribute my views and suggestions. Let's start with a numbered list.
1. I agree that the present bridge is most unfriendly to pedestrians
2. If cyclists don't like to use the bridge it is because they don't have enough confidence to use our roads. Cyclists are entitled to their own space on our roads and drivers should respect the right of cyclists to use the roads. I do not think that we should be making planning decisions based on the fears of cyclists to use our roads.
3. Why should the character of this wonderful town be further diminished by pressure from motor vehicles, particularly heavy good vehicles? The existing bridge's character must not be damaged by the addition of a modern bridge erected nearby. I doubt whether people will use the new bridge anyway if it means going out of their way. There are other places in Bradford on Avon that are worse, for example, there are no pavements at all when pedestrians cross over the bridge to enter the town centre.
4. Pedestrians could be protected by two measures: adding railings to separate the road from the pavement and increasing the width (and the height) of the pavement which is little more than a footpath (about 1 metre wide). To increase the width of the pavements must mean traffic lights as the road width will be reduced to a single track.
My view is that since we can't easily change vehicle driver's behaviour railings could be installed and the pavements raised. These measures would cost a few or possibly several thousand pounds but certainly not a million pounds! The alterations would hardly detract from the character of the bridge and would provide protection from vehicles. Possibly only the pavement needs raising -drivers are very wary of damage to their tyres.
6. However, if the existing bridge cannot be changed as suggested above then at least the pavements could be made wider and traffic lights used to control the narrowing of the road.
7. There is of course an existing footbridge over the river by St. Margarets hall that many people do use.
Westbury Bratton White Horse
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Panning the Google map centred on Freshford can be used to view anywhere. Although this use of the Google map may not be convenient it is useful. I wanted to view the White Horse over at Bratton and its surrounding ancient earth works. However, I discovered that the white horse looks surprisingly accurate from the Google map which is of course a satellite view, but don't take my word for it view it below: Use the + button to zoom in the ( *!*!*) marker will then reduce in size
View Larger Map The horse is very accurate from the satellite view isn't it? Much more than from the ground. The horse is simply colossal, (55m x 52m) (180ft x 170ft) which means that its accuracy from the air is incredible. It was remodelled in 1768 -long before aircraft could help to confirm its shape. For further information visit: Wiltshire White Horses an excellent site!