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Teignmouth unisex changing to go ahead

Broadmeadow sports centre at Teignmouth (Image courtesy: Teignbridge Council)

It's part of £3 million upgrade

A multi-million-pound revamp of a Devon leisure centre has been given the green light after months of wrangling over changing facilities.

Councillors had raised fears that new ‘village-style’ unisex changing cubicles at the refurbished Broadmeadow Leisure Centre in Teignmouth would deter women and girls from using them.

One claimed the changing rooms would put women at risk from sex pests.

But a public consultation has come out overwhelmingly in favour of the new facilities, and now Teignbridge Council has given the go-ahead for the revamp to begin.

The tired sports centre will get a refurbishment costing more than £3 million, alongside a decarbonisation programme bringing it in line with other public buildings in Teignbridge.

Projects across the district have so far cut gas consumption in public buildings by 76 per cent, and Broadmeadow is the council’s largest remaining user of natural gas.

The refurbishment will cut the district’s carbon dioxide emissions by 46 tonnes a year, the equivalent of taking 26 cars off the road. Gas-fired heating will be replaced by modern heat pumps.

The centre will also get a new frontage and reception area, studio spaces, changing facilities and a bigger gym.

But changing arrangements have proved controversial. While some single-sex changing rooms will be retained, there will be large ‘village-style’ unisex areas with individual lockable shower cubicles.

Supporters say they are more flexible and better for families and people who need carers, but opponents say transwomen, older women and those of Muslim, Hindu and Orthodox Jewish faiths will be discouraged from using the leisure centre, and some will feel intimidated.

Cllr Andrew MacGregor (SD Alliance Independent, Bishopsteignton) told a recent meeting: “These plans represent a step backwards for women and girls, whose right to have single-sex spaces is hard-won.”

But a meeting of the executive committee heard that out of 345 people who responded to a survey on the facilities, 83 per cent were in favour of the ‘village-style’ cubicles. Of women who responded, 89 per cent wanted them.

Cllr Jane Taylor (SD Alliance, Kerswell with Coombe) said: “We are trying to encourage girls and women to become involved in sport and exercise. I would like some reassurance that the single-sex changing provision here is adequate.”

And Cllr MacGregor went on: “I have concerns that we don’t have enough of a facility for single-sex changing.

“Women are not feeling as safe as they could be. We need to make sure we have adequate capacity for women and girls to change.”

Council leader Martin Wrigley (Lib Dem, Dawlish NE) said the consultation had been ‘excellent’ and every angle had been covered.

“I’d like to see us get on with this as soon as possible,” he said. “The building clearly needs the update.

“I look forward to seeing this done and delivered.”

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