26 Kingston councillors voted against delaying the demolition of Kingston’s Kingfisher Leisure Centre and were heckled by members of the public at a council meeting at the Guildhall on Tuesday.
The Kingfisher Leisure Centre closed its doors in 2019 due to a collapsed roof. After inspection, the council decided to demolish the centre and plan to open a brand new one in 2024.
A petition containing 3,276 signatures was submitted to the council on 5 October, urging them not to demolish the centre, the only existing leisure complex in Kingston city centre, before guaranteeing to replace the facilities.
The petition also appealed to the council to provide a cost breakdown justifying the replacement building rather than repairing the collapsed roof.
“How can you possibly say you are thinking of people… the ongoing closure of the Kingfisher is already having significant detrimental impact,” said Caroline Scott in her petition presentation to the council.
The campaigner, a driving force behind the public outcry, caused a stir when she shouted out during the meeting and was asked several times by Kingston Mayor Sushila Abraham not to interrupt.
In the meeting, Green Party councillor Sharron Sumner requested an amendment be voted on pausing demolition of the centre until concrete plans were made for the new complex.
“It is not about delaying the leisure centre, it is about waiting to demolish the leisure centre…we are just asking for some prudence here,” Sumner said.
In a roll-call vote, every Liberal Democrat councillor who voted against the amendment was addressed by furious viewers in the public gallery with “shame” and “out with them”.
“Parents and children need somewhere to swim. Why delay…I’m not settling up for a patch-up job,” said Liberal Democrat councillor Stephanie Archer, who voted against the amendment.
Former Liberal Democrat councillor Jon Tolley, who quit the party in protest of the Kingfisher decision, was in favour of the amendment. He said the decided closure without public consent was a “sham.”
“I wish we had a peoples’ vote on this,” he said, to applause and cheers from the public gallery.