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Leisure centre unisex changing rooms under fire

Thursday, 30 November 2023 15:46

By local democracy reporter, Guy Henderson

Broadmeadow Sports Centre, Teignmouth (Google Street View)

Opponents say women will feel intimidated

Proposals to create unisex changing areas at a South Devon leisure centre have come under fire.

Objectors say trans women, older women and those of Muslim, Hindu and Orthodox Jewish faiths will be discouraged from going there, and some will feel intimidated.

Plans to redesign changing and showering facilities are part of a £3 million refurbishment of Teignmouth’s Broadmeadow Leisure Centre. It means no more single-sex and team changing rooms.

When they met to discuss the plans in July, Teignbridge Council was divided over the new facilities, which will feature ‘village style’ changing rooms with a shared, unisex changing area and individual changing cubicles.

Members were told the facilities would be better for families and users with additional needs.

But some councillors say women will be put off going and have called on the council to keep single-sex changing facilities.

Nine South Devon Alliance councillors endorsed a motion saying: “It is increasingly evident that decisions are being taken to accommodate minorities in one area, that negatively impact others, including other minority groups.

“There is a clear need as well as an expectation of the right to single sex spaces. Gender reassignment does not alter a woman’s right to single sex spaces.

“Muslim women are likely to be put off by having to share with men, but that might also apply to Hindu women, Orthodox Jewish women and others. Many older women might also feel intimidated by having to share facilities and this may discourage many from accessing the leisure centre.”

Cllr Jane Taylor (SD Alliance, Kerswell-with-Coombe) said: “This is about women’s rights to safety, privacy and dignity.”

However, not enough members of the full council backed the motion to debate the issue, meaning it will now be referred down the line to the council’s executive committee for discussion.

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