Fenland councillors set for another round of the ‘name game’ as the row over leisure centre re-branding rumbles on

George Campbell

George Campbell - Credit: Archant

The George Campbell Leisure Centre naming controversy is set to create another row next week when the new cabinet member for leisure will put forward fresh proposals.

Hudson Leisure Centre

Hudson Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

Councillor Michelle Tanfield, recently appointed portfolio holder for leisure, will propose a motion to Fenland District Council next Thursday that she says will maintain its long standing community name but also “recognise the need to change and modernise”.

Cllr Tanfield says she has won support for the George Campbell – as well as centres in Wisbech and Whittlesey – to carry the ‘New Vision Fitness’ wording alongside it on the outside of the building.

“All the people we have spoken to were more than happy to embrace New Vision but did not want to lose the important historical names,” says her motion.

She said lack of consultation led to the original debacle “and I felt mindful of this so with the great help of my fellow colleagues, Councillors (Gary) Swan, (Virginia) Bucknor, (Jan) French and (Kit) Owen, we have now managed to consult with all of those concerned”.

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But councillors say she did not consult but merely had a conversation with people about it – which is not the same thing.

Cllr French said: “She has not consulted with March Town Council. To do that you need paperwork to be submitted and the item put on the agenda. This has not happened. She has just spoken to me and Kit.

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“That is a conversation not a consultation.”

Cllr Bucknor said: “I’m outraged. It needs six months before a motion can be amended. The decision in February was unanimous after a lengthy discussion.

“I appreciate she is an inexperienced councillor. Perhaps she needs to reconsider.”

Cllr Kit Owen said that as long as New Vision did not totally overwhelm the George Campbell or Hudson names, then he was fine with it.

“If the motion is the same then fair enough but if it is going to be different then I would want another consultation,” he said.

Cllr Tanfield, elected to the council in a by-election in January, said she wanted to make sure that everybody involved felt their views had been taken into consideration, including those of the late Mr Campbell’s family and the Hudson Trust, and had been respected so that it was what the majority wanted.

Cllr Tanfield, who runs an IT recycling company, said the new leisure signs would be recycled and refurbished so that it was carried out at minimal cost.

New council leader John Clark admitted Councillor Pop Jolley “very nobly held his hands up” to take responsibility for the leisure centre debacle earlier this year but in fact the whole council was to blame.

Cllr Clark admitted that as finance chief last summer he signed off the £50,000 cost of rebranding the four Fenland centres – which included a controversial reference to removing the historic individual names.

A report at that time emphasised how rebranding could boost customer numbers but Cllr Clark said in retrospect the public should have been consulted and it should have been open and transparent.

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