'Shocked and upset' that new Houghton Regis leisure centre won't have its own sports hall

Sports hall will be in new Houstone Academy, but councillor claims access will be 'extremely limited'

By Euan Duncan
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 10:41 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 10:48 am

A new leisure centre for Houghton Regis as part of a £24m funding package is set to be built without a sports hall to the dismay of residents, according to a local councillor.

Bad planning is being blamed by Labour Parkside councillor Toni Ryan for the lack of the facility as part of a community wellbeing hub.

Central Bedfordshire Council secured a £20m levelling up fund bid to help with the regeneration of the Kingsland Campus in the town.

The new leisure centre planned

A new sports hall will be provided instead at the new Houstone Academy, which is due to open in September.

"We were told we'd be getting the much-needed leisure centre in October, councillor Ryan told a CBC full council meeting on January 13 during open questions.

"The recent published application shows Houghton Regis is set to lose out, as the new building will have fewer facilities than the current premises," she said.

"It'll have no sports hall whatsoever. The new facilities will be much smaller than those of our neighbouring town.

"Both myself and residents are shocked and upset about this. When we questioned officers, they told us it wasn't expected the bid would be won. As such it was rushed through.

"This is far from acceptable. This has been a clear oversight and to avoid more public embarrassment for this council I was planning to ask how we'll be funding our new sports hall."

Conservative council leader and Arlesey councillor Richard Wenham described it as "somewhat disappointing that a brand new leisure centre seems to be unwelcome".

He referred to it as the bid CBC "pushed hardest for" to help one of the most deprived areas of the district.

"There's no plan at all to restrict the facilities which are going to be available in this leisure complex," he replied.

"The budget has been awarded to us and we have to spend that funding by March 2024. It's our full intention to deliver a brand new leisure facility, with a sports hall shared with the adjacent academy.

"It makes sense not to build two such premises next to each other. I can confirm there'll be all the other facilities you'd expect in a leisure centre. This project is fully under way and is a critical one for this council to deliver."

Councillor Ryan added: "I have been in touch with the academy trust, which said there's no agreement in place.

"It suggested access would be extremely limited because of the safeguarding of children on the site and DBS checks would be needed for adults using the sports hall.

"That means there would only be a few evenings where residents could benefit from using the facilities at Houstone School.

"I appreciate having a new leisure centre, but not misleading the council like that."

Councillor Wenham explained: "There's no intention to mislead the council. Like all new schools there will be a community access agreement which will allay some of your fears about that.

"I'll ask the executive member for leisure councillor Tracey Stock to update Houghton Regis councillors at the appropriate time."

In a social media post after the meeting, councillor Ryan "urged residents to take part in the upcoming consultations", saying: "This oversight is completely unacceptable and our town deserves better than a rushed through impractical plan."

CBC has said residents will benefit from an eight-lane swimming pool, a learner and splash pool, squash courts, a fitness suite, studios, and an outdoor play area.