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Protests outside Hackney Town Hall as Britannia Leisure Centre development waved through

PUBLISHED: 19:01 09 November 2018 | UPDATED: 11:31 13 November 2018

Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hal. Photo by Polly Hancock

Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hal. Photo by Polly Hancock

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Placard-bearing protesters gathered on the steps of Hackney Town Hall as the £384million Britannia Leisure Centre redevelopment project was waved through by planners.

Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. Photo by Polly HancockSave Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. Photo by Polly Hancock

Save the Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners were making a final stand against the flattening of their cherished facility to make way for a “state-of-the-art” replacement, a housing development and a permanent home for the City of London Academy Shoreditch Park – the school which is currently stuck using a temporary building up the road in Haggerston Park.

The council is relying on funding the project through the sale of luxury flats on the site, while the scheme includes just 81 “affordable” flats out of 481.

The refurbished leisure centre includes a 25-metre pool, training pool, a cafe, a six-court sports hall, crèche and soft play area, sauna and steam room, gym, four squash courts, two five-a-side pitches and two tennis courts.

Pat Turnbull, who has been a member of the Britannia since it opened in 1980, told the Gazette: “Above all we are disappointed that Hackney councillors failed to recognise that this plan will force up local house prices still more and drive more Hackney residents, and their children and grandchildren, out of the borough.

A digital impression of the 16-storey tower block on the corner of Bridport Place. Photo by Hackney Council.A digital impression of the 16-storey tower block on the corner of Bridport Place. Photo by Hackney Council.

“It will make Hackney even less ‘mixed and balanced’ than it is now.

“The many long and detailed objections from local residents as well as our campaign appeared to have been given little weight.”

Pat believes there is little the public can do once an application has been passed, but insisted the campaign group will be considering all their options.

The proposals have been two-and-a-half years in the planning and the council insists there has been “widespread consultations and more than 50 hours of engagement events”.

A digital impression of the proposed council-run leisure centre. Photo by Hackney Council.A digital impression of the proposed council-run leisure centre. Photo by Hackney Council.

Mayor of Hackney Phil Glanville said: “Hackney needs improved leisure provision, hundreds of more school places and thousands of new homes. Our proposals help deliver on all of these. I’m very proud that, despite ongoing government cuts to our funding, our council is finding innovative ways to keep investing in our communities.

“The current leisure centre simply doesn’t deliver the standard of provision or access that Hackney’s diverse communities expect, need and deserve now and in the future. The new centre will be better in almost every way and preserves many of the family friendly elements we know that people value.

“What we’re proposing is necessary if you believe Hackney’s current and future generations deserve access to good schools and leisure provision.”

The school would be built in the car park of the leisure centre while Britannia is still operating, and should open in 2020. The leisure centre would be delivered next, by 2021, before the Britannia is knocked down and two 21- and 24-storey tower blocks are built there.

A digital impression of the proposed secondary school (City of London Shoreditch Park) on the corner of Hyde Road and Northport Street. Photo by Hackney Council.  A digital impression of the proposed secondary school (City of London Shoreditch Park) on the corner of Hyde Road and Northport Street. Photo by Hackney Council.

An 18-storey block will also go up in the grounds of the former Whitmore School, which was renamed Shoreditch Park Primary.

The new buildings will be placed on the site of the existing leisure centre – which will not close until the new one is open – the existing asphalt sports courts, and the site of the Hoxton Press sales and marketing suite.

The homes for outright sale, necessary to fund the development “in the absence of adequate government funding”, will be built in a second phase, once the new leisure centre is up and running.

The scheme also includes a square with seating, improved cycle routes and 33 new trees.

Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. Photo by Polly HancockSave Britannia Leisure Centre campaigners on the steps of Hackney Town Hall. Photo by Polly Hancock

Rebecca Neil, a professional planner who has been helping the group navigate the complexities of this planning application, also spoke at the meeting.

Her objections to the application included the loss of open space due to the development, the “high residential density” which would be detrimental to infrastructure and services in the area, as well as the loss of sunlight to people currently living in the area because of the proposed flats.

The application is subject to approval by the Greater London Authority – likely to be within the next 14 days.

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