Oak Park: this doesn’t smell right

From Walsall Council’s website: the projected site layout of the new Oak Park Leisure Centre. Smell that? It’s unfeasibility. Click for a larger version.

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.

This clearly isn’t a working plan. I think it looks quite decent – but can understand objections. Click for a larger version. Image from Walsall Council’s Leisure, Sports and immunity site.

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.

Why now? And why is this even a political issue? I’m deeply suspicious. Leaflet posted through doors in Walsall Wood at the weekend. Click for a larger version.
That form to fill it – you’re not offering views on the proposal but offering support to the local Tory party. That’s a bit naughty. Nice to see some lovely roads over in Aldridge. How the other half live, eh? Click for a larger version.
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  • Peter

    “Evening All” Not sure what is going on here, can’t quite put my finger on it but something is amiss. IF we accept that the Council and in particular it’s local band of merry men are genuinely wanting to improve the Borough’s Leisure provisions, where is the money going to come from? I get the feeling that the Council is under enough pressure already to cover the cost of basics like Health, Education, Transport infrastructure etc.
    I think the general feeling (forget the detail for a moment) is that the exisitng Oak Park Leisure Centre is tired, had it’s day, needs upgrading, replacing etc, but this sketchy, unfinished back of a “fag packet” proposal seems extravagant and very costly in comparison to other ideas, unless of course there is another agenda somewhere in the background!
    I think this will drag on and on and on…………….

  • Martin

    Three words: Walsall Leisure Trust.

    • I know about the Liesure Trust. Still doesn’t make it any more feasible. This will cost millions.


      • martin

        What’s feasible got to do with it?
        They’re going all-out for a Leisure Trust which will be run by the same people who currently run the leisure centres, only they’ll borrow about a squillion pounds to (a) give themselves pay rises and (b) to build the new centres (in that order).
        And yes, I expect it will cost millions, but that’s how they get their kicks – spending money that isn’t theirs….

  • Jackie Phillips

    My concerns as a Walsall Wood Resident is that the land is in trust and can only be used for recreational/leisure purposes for the residents of the area, this dates back to the mining companies I believe. the plans propose the building to move to the coppice rd end of the land. When the existing building is demolished what is planned for that area of Land? Is that parcel of land under the trust boundaries? Remember the only piece of land the council had available they could sell off- they did to KFC! who has control over the existing car park and footprint of current building.
    I am all for a new leisure centre and would also love to see an Athletics Track incorporated and put walsall on the Athletics Map, We have talent but we have to go to Birmingham, Sutton or Stafford to train with a club. Walsall Sports and Leisure do a fantastic job with their Junior club at W’Ton University Campus lets provide an all round facility.

  • The only thing Walsall councilors are interested in is filling there own pockets while making cuts to do it.Despite residents and users of Oak Park against the development of a new leisure centre on the proposed site taking up valuable park space which families use and would see the removal of a full size football pitch which is used by many men and ladies teams around the area.
    Also the Squash courts would not exist in the proposed new leisure centre as they would be built in the new Bloxwich one? There are many reasons for Oak Park to stay on its original site but these three councilors,Harris,Sears and Flower (again I say why 3 Tory councilors for one area?) ignore anything said against it.

  • Ron lane

    I expect the re building of the leisure centre will go as far as the plans they had for building a velodrome in walsall some years ago.

    • I would tend to agree. Distraction politics.
      Best wishes


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