Kingston's new council leader is calling for residents to air their views on the latest proposals for a new leisure centre in the borough.

Council Leader Andreas Kirsch, who succeeded Cllr Caroline Kerr to the position last month, announced the final round of "engagement" and urged people in the borough to tell the council their thoughts on the plans that have stoked heated debate on the council recently.

As the Surrey Comet reported, structural problems have caused the existing Kingfisher Centre to be closed since December 2019. The council's multi-million pound proposals suggest knocking it down and replacing it with a brand new centre to be built over several years.

They have been criticised by various political groups in Kingston including the Conservatives, Greens, independents and even some within the ruling Liberal Democrat group.

Critics have pointed to the high cost (estimated at some £40 million) and absence of facilities the plans would entail in the area until the new centre is completed.

Cllr Kirsch however continued sing the praises of the project as he asked people living in the area to offer their thoughts in a statement published Monday (November 15).

"I’m really excited about the initial plans, developed based on feedback from people all over the borough. It will be a leisure centre and community space that brings people together, truly a facility for all. It is the centrepiece of Kingston’s heritage led regeneration programme - a leisure centre fit for the future that is even better and more accessible than what we have now," he said.

"As the final phase of our early engagement begins, we really want to hear from as many people as possible, from all our diverse communities," he added. "This is your leisure centre, it is your Kingston, and we want to know what is most important to you. I want as many people as possible to have their voices heard and influence the final designs, so we get it right - for everyone."

Many of those who oppose the current plans have argued for a less expensive and time-consuming fix to the roof of the existing Kingfisher centre that initially forced its closure.

One of them was Cllr Jon Tolley, who quit the Kingston Lib Dems over the existing proposals and how they were being presented to residents.

"I don't think it's deliverable, I don't think we'll do it on time. It's completely avoidable. If we'd have just listened to experienced councillors who said these things...but it's inexperienced councillors making these decisions. But I hope I'm wrong," he told the Surrey Comet in September.

Kingston Council are holding drop in sessions and hosting online forms for residents to give their views on the proposals (see here).