Families frustrated by delays to new disabled facilities at Gosport Leisure Centre

FAMILIES of disabled children have been frustrated by delays to a promised facility at a nearby leisure centre.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 5:42 pm
Kirsty Smillie, one of Gosport's changing places campaigners. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (200119-4)

Campaigners have been working alongside Places Leisure, which operates the Gosport Leisure Centre in Forest Way, to get a changing places facility installed.

These facilities provide ample space for disabled or incontinent individuals to be changed into a fresh set of clothes.

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According to those involved in the campaign, progress had been encouraging on the site – but now Gosport Borough Council has stepped in and restarted that project.

Kirsty Smillie, 37, is one of the leading campaigners for changing places facilities in Gosport.

She said: ‘The manager at Gosport Leisure Centre has been really enthusiastic about a changing places facility.

‘Apparently they had it all costed and had contractors sorted, then the council put a halt to it because they wanted to use the same contractor as the splash park in Lee-on-the-Solent.

‘It shouldn’t be about who’s doing the work, but just about getting it done.'

The council says a budget is currently being worked out for the project.

It comes after changing places facilities were opened at the splash park and at Gosport Discovery Centre, with the council planning additional sites for Alver Valley and the bus station redevelopment.

Yet Kirsty says that while the council fusses over contractors, families are losing out.

‘The bottom line is that there are families in this town who cannot take their own child swimming,’ she said.

‘It’s about being accessible and doing everything possible for the disabled community – that just isn’t being done right now.

‘There’s no sense of urgency about it and for families with disabled children or adults, it’s incredibly frustrating.’

But Stevyn Ricketts, head of Gosport’s Streetscene service, says plans are in motion.

He said: ‘We've been working closely with the leisure centre manager on this project ever since it was first suggested.

‘We intend to use the contractors who built the leisure centre to complete the work because they have the best knowledge of the building.

‘We've identified where the facility will go and we are currently finalising a budget for the works.’