The projected rebuild of the Oak Park Leisure centre in Walsall Wood seems to be causing some controversy hereabouts. Whilst I understand the concern, and I’m grateful for all your contributions – the whole thing is leaving me a bit puzzled.
Plans for the centre (excerpts featured here in this post) can be accessed from the relevant page at Walsall Council’s website.
What I don’t understand is why this is being projected now, and why it seems to be a political issue. I see the local Tories (all three councillors in the Walsall Wood wood are Conservative) have been posting out a glossy leaflet that speaks of ‘campaigning’ and meeting promises, which is odd as there’s not an election here for 18 months.
A reader has scanned the sheet, which I include at the foot of this post.
The form the battling heroes ask residents to fill in in seems to confuse it’s role with an expression of interest in local political campaigning. Display posters? Join the local party? The councillors invite you to give your views on the front, then on the back ask you to fill out the form if you’re in favour. Most odd.
With Walsall Council apparently facing £70 million of cuts in the next four years, I can’t quite see where the money is likely to be coming from, coupled with the complexities of building on land held in trust. It all seems a bit grand, to be honest. Talk of moving the library seems wonderful, too, but the sale of the old library site didn’t go to plan and I suspect that brave new dawn didn’t cover it’s own costs in the end. Perhaps they’re hoping that Walsall Wood’s book collection will qualify for traveller status and additional EU grants.
I’m not against building a new leisure centre – quite the reverse, in fact – the original is crumbling, and it’s well loved and used. I don’t even have much of a problem with the design and location, although I can understand the fear and shock of residents nearby. My overriding opinion on this is largely that I can’t see this happening in a month of Sundays.
I’m also wondering what this is a smokescreen for – I’ve never seen Walsall Wood councillors behave like this before. The drama, the media grabbing. It’s like Christian Aid have been pushing them steroids. Just seeing Councillor Sears out in public has been a shock it took some time to recover from…
I’d also caution that these drawings – spotted by treader Tkevcro – clearly aren’t a final design and are a projection. This has an awful long way to go before it becomes a valid proposal, and the planning system will allow for objections. This isn’t over, it’s the beginning of a very long process.
I must confess, I’m finding myself wondering if Oak Park – if denied a rebuild by residents – will end up closing. If so, what will become of the land? Bentley library was demolished some years ago now in order to rebuild another on the same site: It’s now wasteland. Councillors proposed ridiculous solutions for the construction of a new Chuckery Youth Centre, and it was withdrawn. Despite having the cash, the youth of Chuckery never got a facility, the failure then being blamed on residents. Demolishing Oak Park to rebuild a replacement will result in a drop in revenue at a time when it’s most needed to justify it’s existence.
Be careful what you wish for.
On a related note, I thought roads maintenance was on a needs basis worked out by contractor surveys, not nobbled by councillors for political advantage. You live and learn.