Sport Haslemere has slammed Waverley Borough Council for an “appalling lack of communication” over the continuing closure of The Edge Leisure Centre.

The group has relentlessly sought updates since The Edge’s abrupt closure on June 30 – but says all promises of “better communication” from Waverley have been unfulfilled.

Citing a “lack of respect” shown to his organisation over the past six months, Sport Haslemere chairman Chris Grimes said all approaches to Waverley had gone unanswered this summer.

He revealed Waverley leader Paul Follows promised in a meeting in April that The Edge would not close for community use and transitional funding would be considered.

But in a statement this week, the borough council admitted it has “no legal connection to The Edge and no ability to control what happens there” after terminating its lease on the centre in June.

“Is it any wonder Waverley has been unable to work with Surrey to clarify the future of The Edge if communications between those two bodies are as bad as that between Waverley and Sport Haslemere?” said Mr Grimes.

With less than a fortnight of the summer holidays left, it also remains to be seen if Woolmer Hill School will be allowed to keep using the indoor facilities at The Edge when the new term starts.

And an arrangement that would allow the centre to reopen for community use seems as far away as ever, with the sporting clubs that rely on The Edge being kept in the dark by Waverley and Surrey councils.

Sport Haslemere says it has repeatedly offered to host meetings with the councils to seek solutions, as well as proposing its own interim measures and presenting a petition with more than 2,750 signatures calling for the centre to reopen for community use at a Waverley full council meeting. 

But it adds it has been met with a blanket of silence since July – from both Waverley, which terminated its lease on The Edge at the end of June, and Surrey, which owns the leisure centre.

Responding in a statement published in full below, a Waverley spokesman said the lack of clarity over The Edge’s future was “disappointing”. But it added that after it terminated its lease, the borough council “is reliant on updates from partners”.

Waverley Borough Council's statement on The Edge in full

A Waverley Borough Council spokesman said: “It is disappointing we do not have clarity around the future operation of The Edge.  However, Waverley Borough Council is not the only party involved in the discussions around the site.

"Although we are committed to supporting negotiations and agreements that establish both school and community use in the future, since the termination of the lease at the end of June, we have no legal connection to The Edge and no ability to control what happens there. Waverley is reliant on updates from partners on progress, and we are not in the position to issue a definitive statement on our own.

“Waverley has shared the information required by Weydon Multi-Academy Trust (WMAT) to enable them to complete their business plan, and we are committed to including our own pitches in the future overall management solution for the site.

“We understand Surrey County Council and WMAT are meeting regularly to find a solution for the school and the community.  We are keen to meet with both organisations to understand the timelines involved with re-opening the facilities to the public and will share any information on progress with sports clubs and the wider community, when we have it.

“At present the outdoor pitches owned by Waverley are still open for community use and we are working on an arrangement for them to be used by the school once term starts. The pitches are currently being managed by Woolmer Hill Sports Association and the details of this arrangement have been shared with Surrey County Council in the hope that a similar arrangement could lead to the re-opening of ATP1.

“The ultimate goal for us is a long-term arrangement that includes all of the facilities being made available for school and community use as soon as possible, and Waverley is committed to working with all the necessary partners in any way that we can to make this happen.”

The Edge is a vital facility for Woolmer Hill School, being its only indoor sporting facility, and the Weydon Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) which runs the school  is developing a  business plan with a view to taking on the centre long term.

But the question over future community access at The Edge remains unanswered.

Tim Oliver, leader of Surrey County Council, said: “Further to our previous statements, we are still working hard with the Weydon Multi Academy Trust to reopen the Edge for use by the school from September. Those talks are progressing well.

“We also know how important the centre is to the sports groups who used it previously, and we are keen to come to a solution to enable subsequent wider community use to resume. We will update on that as soon as we can.”

The Weydon MAT has been asked for a comment.

The Edge
The Edge has remained open for Woolmer Hill School's use – but remains shut to the community (Georgia Hase)

Sport Haslemere's six months of frustration laid bare

While many Haslemere residents are deprived of facilities at The Edge Leisure Centre during the supposed temporary closure of the building, Sport Haslemere has expressed concern about the "appalling" lack of communication from Waverley Borough Council.

Chris Grimes, chairman of Sport Haslemere, told the Herald about the "lack of respect" it has received throughout the last six months despite promises to keep his organisation informed about progress.

He explained that Sport Haslemere first heard about possible changes at The Edge when contacted by the Herald in early February this year and at that point identified that Waverley Borough Council had given notice to relinquish the lease effective from June 30.

He wrote to the executive head of commercial services at the council expressing grave disappointment at the lack of communication with the local sports council on such an important matter and received a response apologising for the oversight by himself and his team and was told they would ensure that in future Sport Haslemere would be made aware of any changes of this nature before they became public.

Because of a lack of any perceptive progress Sport Haslemere called a special meeting on April 17 which was attended by the leader of Waverley Borough Council, Councillor Paul Follows, and other local councillors. At that meeting Cllr Follows spoke in confidence and assured Sport Haslemere that The Edge would not close for community use and that Waverley were prepared to assist with transitional funding for a two year period if necessary.

Following the meeting a letter was sent to Cllr Follows thanking him for attending the meeting and the assurances he had given and requesting a formal note of his comments as soon as possible. He responded the next day saying it was his pleasure to attend and hopefully this will be the start of a better overall relationship between the council and Sport Haslemere.

Cllr Follows also said that as soon as something could be said – “and my current barrier is really only the pre-election period” – there will be a more formal note.

But despite reminders to the borough council leader from Sport Haslemere, it received nothing until mid-May when Cllr Follows asked that it hold off making public his confidential comments and said it would have an official letter from him covering all of the information next week that it would be able to share with members. That promise has never been fulfilled.

In the event, Sport Haslemere was told during the last week of June that The Edge would temporarily close after June 30 with negotiations continuing to try and find a solution. Sport Haslemere sent an “open letter” to the leaders of Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council on July 1 offering to host a meeting of all of the parties to find a solution. That letter was published in the Herald on July 6, but apart from an acknowledgement of receipt from Surrey no other response has been received.

Sport Haslemere set up a petition expressing the wish for The Edge to remain open for community use and this has been signed by more than 2,750 people.

Sport Haslemere presented this petition to the full council meeting of Waverley Borough Council on July 18 and also raised a question about the future of The Edge asking for an assurance that the building would re-open for community use by no later than October.

CAPTION: Sport Haslemere chairman Chris Grimes presents The Edge petition at Waverley full council (his speech starts at the 26 minute point)

The council did not give that assurance and referred the petition to their overview and scrutiny committee which does not meet until September 26. The leader did however promise to set up a meeting between himself; the chair of Sport Haslemere; the leader of Surrey County Council and local MP Jeremy Hunt and that he would do so the following day.

Sport Haslemere again wrote to the leader of Waverley Borough Council on July 19 setting out in more detail a suggestion that they had put to the council in their question the previous evening.

A reminder was sent on July 24 asking for a response and for plans for the meeting that had been promised and a response from the leader was received on July 25 stating that he would respond properly by the end of the day with full information.

To date no response whatsoever has been received despite two further reminders.

“Is it any wonder that Waverley have been unable to work with Surrey to clarify the future of The Edge if communications between those two bodies are as bad as that between Waverley and Sport Haslemere,” concluded Mr Grimes.