Lib Dems opposed to new attempts to close Pool and Track

Cllr John Macklin vists the under-threat Pool and Track facilityLocal Liberal Democrats have confirmed their opposition to plans to close the Pool and Track in order to fund the long-awaited Arcade development before a consultation on the area has been completed.

A new report, which will go to Cabinet on the 15th September, asks senior councillors to agree to authorise officers to find a developer for a “mixed use scheme” on the vacant Arcade site, using £10million from the disposal of the Pool and Track, plus an option of Council borrowing, for a replacement facility on the site at the top of Walthamstow High Street.

And despite forcing last-minute changes to the report – which had already been published for consideration by the Council’s Scrutiny panel – Local Lib Dem Leader Cllr John Macklin has again expressed his concerns that the plans for the Arcade site will have serious knock on effects for a series of redevelopment projects in the area that are not sufficiently covered in the plans.

In March this year Liberal Democrat cabinet members voted against an earlier report laying the groundwork for the plan, with Cllr Macklin telling a cabinet meeting that the Council had  “a history of knocking things down and leaving them derelict and I am worried about swapping one piece of derelict land in Walthamstow for another near the town hall”.

Outlining his concerns, Cllr Macklin claimed that the report would have serious knock-on effects both for the future of the Pool and Track facility and the planning application recently submitted for development of the former EMD cinema.  Cllr Macklin added that, despite last-ditch efforts within the Town Hall to urge Labour cabinet members to postpone the plans, the report will go forward.

Cllr Macklin said:

“I just cannot see the logic in bringing these proposals forward at this time.

“The report regarding the future of the Pool and Track site has not even been completed and an outstanding planning application for the former EMD is yet to be heard.  The approval we are being asked to give in this report will obviously have massive implications for both these developments.

“First and foremost, as a Chapel End ward councillor I am really unhappy with the lack of clear proposals for the area behind the Town hall, including the Pool and Track, the allotments and the playing fields.

“It seems obvious to me that any decision to shut any of the Pool and Track facilities as part of the Arcade development should only be taken when we know what alternatives are being proposed for the Pool and Track site.  I have already met with allotment holders and other site users who are really worried about development on the site. 

“What effects will the closure of the leisure centre have on the athletics track?  The plans for that area currently laid out in the report seem almost laughably vague”.

The report suggests that the land “could become more fully utilised and provide an important resource for residents, and provide a wide range of facilities”.  It also claims that the decision whether to agree to the funding of a leisure centre on the Arcade may be influential to the likelihood of a new cinema being built on the site, a proposal that could have an impact on the outstanding planning application to renovate the former EMD cinema.

Cllr Macklin added:

“I would love to be reassured that the pieces of these various development plans fit together, and that this report isn’t simply part of a financial gamble to get a development of any sort built on the Arcade site, but that is increasingly what this looks like.  The goalposts appear to keep shifting and the reassurances we have repeatedly asked for have not been forthcoming.

“The development of these various sites needs to be part of a clear overall plan for our area, not simply piecemeal building projects that give the impression that the Council is simply chasing its own tail.”

What do you think of the plans to close the Pool and Track?  Do you think the Arcade proposals will have an impact on the EMD planning application?

Below is the original report published on the Council website.  Let us know your views!

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