Tories Continue With Plans to Rip The Heart Out Of The Community In Rayleigh

In a recent press release, RDC & Conservative Councillors have announced their intention to continue with their ill-conceived plans to rip the heart of the community in Rayleigh.

The decision making and plans for the new facilities have been shrouded in secrecy and remain hidden from public view. Many of the decisions being taken under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic and with NO PUBLIC CONSULTATION.

The plans have had no opposition from any District or Town Rayleigh Conservative Councillor, with one even going so far as to describe The Mill Hall as ‘dire’ – we think shows contempt for those who use the facilities and rely on them to give them, often vital wellbeing activities.

The ‘exciting’ plans have neither being revealed to the public or consulted on – do you wonder what they are hiding?

The Lib Dems would argue that if the plans are so exciting, then why haven’t they been revealed to the public and consulted on?

Previously the plans have been described as a ‘regeneration’ project, but we fail to see how this will generate any economic benefit for Rayleigh Town with the beating heart of the community scheduled for demolition.

Many groups and clubs that use the facility have now been displaced and some may even be disbanded as they have nowhere to meet. Are you one of those clubs? Let us know in the comments below.

The Lib Dems and other opposition groups have repeatedly fought against these proposals and urged the Council to ‘pause for thought’ with the change in working practices and needs, but have had their concerns dismissed by the Conservative administration.

The future of Rochford District Council’s contract with its leisure services provider, Fusion Lifestyle, will be discussed by Councillors next month.

The proposals, to be considered by the Council’s Executive on the 2nd of December, seek to extend the contract for three years (taking it to 31st March 2025).

Prior to the pandemic, the Council had planned to tender for a new leisure contract to commence 1 April 2022, in accordance with its Leisure & Cultural Services Strategy.

However, the impact of COVID-19 required the Council to reconsider its approach, since procuring a new contract in a commercially uncertain environment would be unlikely to achieve value for money or incentivise innovation or investment by a service provider.

The proposal, to be considered by Councillors, would enable Fusion to continue to manage Clements Hall Leisure Centre, in Hawkwell, and Rayleigh Leisure Centre, providing services which support the health and wellbeing of our residents.

If approved, the Mill Arts & Events Centre, in Rayleigh would remain closed until the site is redeveloped.  The building forms part of the Asset Delivery Programme with the site set to be re-developed as an exciting new community centre, with space retained for Council use, the site would also deliver residential use. If approved Castle Hall in Rayleigh, would also remain closed.

Prior to the pandemic, the Mill Arts & Events Centre and Castle Hall ran at  significant losses.  In recent months, there has been a lack of demand due to COVID 19 restrictions.   Therefore, the cost to operate these buildings  in the current climate is unsustainable. 

The Freight House in Rochford, which is also managed by Fusion, would remain closed (as per the recommendation in the report to the Executive in August), since this is one of the buildings proposed for early redevelopment as a new community and civic space within the Council’s Asset Delivery Programme.

The Council will continue to work with and support groups and organisations that are currently, or were previously, using Freight House, The Mill Arts & Events Centre or Castle Hall and who would like assistance to identify alternative local facilities where possible.

Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community, Cllr Mike Webb, said: “As a Council, we value our leisure facilities and the important role they play in the health and wellbeing of our residents, and this is always foremost in our minds as we consider future contracts, while also carefully reviewing the impact that COVID-19 has had on the leisure industry.

“Despite the effects of the pandemic, we are fortunate in that the Freight House and the Mill Arts & Events Centre site are already due for redevelopment in the future as part of our Asset Delivery Programme, which we anticipate will be completed by 2023, providing exciting community facilities for our residents in the years ahead.”

RDC PRESS RELEASE

  • As a resident of Rayleigh who uses / used the Mill hall regularly each week for wellbeing classes It is a centre that in my experience over several years is very well used by numerous groups, notwithstanding other social and entertainment functions held there. Any pressure you can apply to retain this facility is fully supported by me and I would suggest many others. Sheila Stokes

  • Absolutely, over the years myself and family have attended many events held at the mill hall and participated in groups/clubs. This is a lifeline for leisure, health and social interaction for all age groups. I fully support the continuation of this use. It is a complete waste of money to alter it. There should definitely be a public consultation.

  • A lot of unanswered questions, How many houses or flats will be built. Are there any plans yet of a new community hall. How many parking spaces will be allocated to each residency. How many spaces will.. be lost. What impact might there be for business. Will there be enough spaces for Hall users, What will be possible loss in parking fees for RDC.