IT WAS ten years in the planning but as the doors opened at the new £8.1m Grange Community and Leisure Centre today the universal verdict was: It has been well worth the wait.
Chichester District Council (CDC) planned a ‘soft’ opening yesterday ((Monday, March 3) with an official ceremony later this summer.
So members of the public got straight down to business on the sports courts.
First on the new squash courts were Richard and Chris Loversidge who played a big role in the development of the former Grange.
Although they both have retired from serious squash playing, they took to the new courts for the cameras.
“The building and facilities are gorgeous,” said Richard, “it all goods, really good and we are very impressed.”
Eileen Lintill, CCD’s cabinet member for leisure said she was sure members of the public would be as impressed as she was: “It’s light, it’s bright its airy and it’s providing all sorts of sports and community facilities.”
She was keen to stress it was a facility for everyone north of the Downs.
“It’s not just for Midhurst, the centre is only a ten minute drive from Petworth and a short distance from many other villages and this is a facility for everyone.”
Illustrating her point, members of the Over 60s Badminton Club took to the courts just hours after the new centre opened.
They came from Fittleworth, Northchapel, South Harting and Camelsdale as well as Midhurst.
Among them was Molly Etherington who said: “The facilities are very nice. They have absolutely been well worth the wait.”
And 92-year-old Joyce Lekstrom who plays twice a week with the club added: “It’s wonderful the courts are amazing.”
Jane Hodgkiss, the CDC officer responsible for the project since the outset told the Observer: “It’s fantastic, I am so thrilled. It is worth every moment of the process.”
The £8.1m cost of the centre has been offset by a £500,000 donation from the Monument Trust towards community facilities and the smaller sports hall which doubles as a community hall has been named in memory of Simon Sainsbury whose family set up the trust.
West Sussex County Council has also contributed £805,000 for its library facilities there.
A chunk of the cost will also be recouped when the former Grange site is sold for redevelopment.
For a free trial pass for The Grange see the Midhurst and Petworth Observer dated February 27.