PORTSMOUTH City Council has agreed to build a new leisure centre.
But opponents of the scheme say it will be like ‘demolishing the Guildhall and selling the land for houses’.
The council’s leaders met yesterday to approve spending £1.4m to demolish and replace the Hillside Youth and Community Centre in Cheltenham Road, Paulsgrove.
The centre in its place will be a two-storey building, with space for community and youth groups, an art room, sports hall and other spaces.
Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘It has taken a long time to get to this point and I’m glad we can move on the proposals now.’
Sport England gave its approval to the plans on June 6 this year, and it’s hoped that if they are approved by the council’s planning committee, work can start next June, and the centre will open in September 2013.
The council’s leader for leisure and sport, Cllr Lee Hunt, said: ‘We’re opening things, when all across the country councils are shutting things down. It’s a new centre, and shows we are doing things. It’s in the north of the city, where some people say we’re not doing anything. But we are. This is really positive.’
But the plans have upset people in Cosham, because most of the funding for the new centre – £1m – came from insurance money paid out after the Wymering Centre, on Sixth Avenue, Cosham, burned down in August 2006.
The Wymering Centre was not rebuilt, and will become part of the new Youth and Community Centre in Paulsgrove.
Cosham Tory Councillor Lee Mason said: ‘It was at the heart of the community, but the council’s taken the money from it burning down and taken the centre away. The Cosham and Paulsgrove communities are completely different. It’s a lost facility for Cosham.’
Cllr Mason criticised a council plan to sell the land the Wymering Centre was on for housing or other development.
He said: ‘It’s a community building which has been there for many years. It’s a loss of public land, like demolishing the Guildhall and building houses on Guildhall Square.’