Councillor says ‘I do apologise and I really meant that’ after original names of Wisbech and March leisure centres are restored

PUBLISHED: 12:36 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:36 28 February 2014

George Campbell's daughter Anne Gunn with Cllr Jan French.

George Campbell's daughter Anne Gunn with Cllr Jan French.

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Leisure centres across Fenland will have their original names restored after the man responsible for changing them held up his hands and declared: “I do apologise and I really mean that”.

Wisbech petition protest against Hudson leisure centre name change. Left: Cllr Michael Bucknor, Cllr Virginia Bucknor and Roger Rawson. Wisbech petition protest against Hudson leisure centre name change. Left: Cllr Michael Bucknor, Cllr Virginia Bucknor and Roger Rawson.

Leisure centres across Fenland will have their original names restored after the man responsible for changing them held up his hands and declared: “I do apologise and I really mean that”.

Portfolio holder Pop Jolley told a meeting of Fenland Council that he took “full responsibility” for the decision to re-brand the leisure centres.

The council heard from Ann Gunn, daughter of the late George Campbell, who asked how the decision could have been implemented without consulting with either the families involved or the public who use the centres.

The council spent £50,000 re-branding the four market town centres under the ‘New Vision’ banner and planned to erect plaques, where appropriate, inside to explain the historical connections to George Campbell in March and to Alan Hudson in Wisbech.

Cllr Pop Jolley, Cllr Pop Jolley,

Cllr Jolley said: “I apologise to the families and to the people of Wisbech and March and I take full responsibility for this.

“We are sorry we did not consult on rebranding with the families and this was a mistake and we regret it. It was certainly a lesson learnt.”

The ruling Conservative group on the council had been briefed privately about the rebranding last summer but few realised it also meant historical names might disappear.

Mrs Gunn was one of those to campaign for the name to be restored which had been called George Campbell leisure centre in honour of her late father, a former town mayor and campaigner to get the original swimming pool open.

Wisbech petition protest against Hudson leisure centre name change Wisbech petition protest against Hudson leisure centre name change

“Whilst the family accepts the apologies given over the way the rebranding was handled, we are keen to ensure that no other family of anyone so honoured experiences similar disrespectful behaviour,” she said.

“The rebranding was fundamentally flawed.”

Ten members of the public turned up to hear the debate which included comments from Wisbech independent councilor Virginia Bucknor who had campaigned for the Hudson centre to return to its original name.

“We are here to serve the people of Fenland- not to dictate to them,” she said. “Local people still care about Alan Hudson because he cared about Wisbech.”

Councillor Mark Archer, an independent councillor from Manea, called it a “shambles” but praised Cllr Jolley for taking the blame.

Councillor Martin Curtis of Whittlesey said: “We need to make sure that we as a council learn lessons from this about the importance of consultation. There are concerns about the way we consult and the people we reach.”

Cllr Bucknor said Alan Hudson “is one of the people who made the town. He gave Edina Court his own home, gave £250,000 to the town, donated to the town’s palliative care unit, £10,000 to the cancer patient ward yet the local council sees fit to remove his name from our leisure centre.

“Cllr Jolley has been doing his best to fix this problem thanks to the barrage of complaints but it should never have happened. This has been a huge, costly mistake.”

Mrs Gunn asked that it now be written into the deeds and for assurances that the name change issue could never again happen.

Councillor Will Sutton agreed it was Cllr Jolley’s mistake “but fair play to him for saying he is sorry”.

Families of both Alan Hudson and George Campbell will be invited to help with the official unveiling of new signs when they are ready to go up.

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