POOL AND TRACK PLANS VOTED THROUGH DESPITE STRONG OPPOSITION

Controversial sports centre plan approved over loss of funding fear

8:18am Wednesday 11th March 2015 – Waltham Forest E Guardian

Plans for new £23million sports facilities in Walthamstow were controversially approved last night after thousands called for further public consultation.

Campaigners packed into council chamber last night heard as the planning committee heard impassioned speeches pleading for further dialogue over plans for the Pool and Track site in Chingford Road.

The proposal from council contractor Greenwich Leisure Limited would see the loss of a 5m diving board, a dedicated diving pool and other facilities for athletes, prompting a campaign backed by coaches, parents and young people.

Veteran diver Jonathon Fox, who travels to the borough from Stansted every week, said the plans have been put forward on a “like it or lump it” basis.

Many of us hoped this council would enter into a meaningful dialogue with the users of the Pool and Track,” he said.

Instead, it’s like going into a restaurant, being given a menu and being told you will have something completely different.

Diver and coach Michael Allen questioned the council’s commitment to the Olympic legacy.
He said:

Last year, I had to console young divers who have had to give up the sport because of lack of transport and additional costs for their parents.

I find it amazing that anybody could argue this is not a loss of amenity.

Mr Allen told the committee a lack of a dedicated diving area would mean swimmers and divers could not train at the same time, which would restrict hours.

Manager of the Waltham Forest Disability Resource Centre, Peri Stanley, said no disability groups were contacted over the project and said the plans undermined access.

She said:

Sport England says portable steps can be used, but this isn’t an existing pool, it is a brand new development and I can see no reason for such a makeshift compromise.

People have to wait and ask for steps is an unnecessary barrier to inclusion.

At the very least disabled users should have been consulted.

Head coach of the Orion Harriers Juniors athletics team, Jane Farrier, who carried the Olympic torch into the borough, said athletes would lose a “vital” stretch room under the plans.

She said:

For months council officers claimed no such stretch room existed. We have pictures of it being used by (Olympic gold medallist) Sally Gunnell.

I urge this committee to reject these plans so that proper and full consultation and designs can be accommodated.

Alistair Gibb, a BMX enthusiast, spoke in favour of the plans.

Chris Simons from Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) told the committee an extra 400,000 people are expected to use the new facility, but drew criticism when he dismissed the 5m diving board as ‘unnecessary’ when a 3m board would be in place.

He said:

This is about creating a five star facility for an affordable price.

We are trying to make this the best facility in London.

I don’t believe the 5m board is an issue.

Having had a 5m diving platform previously hasn’t actually produced any 5m divers at competition standard.

Chapel End ward councillor Steve Terry said it is with a “heavy heart” that he and his colleagues approved the plans, through fear of losing funding.

The plans were voted through by three to one.

Chingford councillor Alan Siggers ensured conditions were imposed to give the Harriers use of a room for stretching and ensure the re-location of toilets to eliminate safeguarding concerns.

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