Gazette letters: Britannia leisure centre and elections

A digital impression of the proposed council-run leisure centre. Picture: HACKNEY COUNCIL

A digital impression of the proposed council-run leisure centre. Picture: HACKNEY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

I am writing to you to express my complete opposition to Hackney Council’s plans to replace the popular Britannia leisure centre, writes Chris Newby, Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate for Hoxton East and Shoreditch.

With six residential blocks including three towers, a large academy school and a new leisure centre on a patch of land presently classified as designated open space. I support the local Save Britannia leisure centre campaign.

The council cabinet argues that the only way to raise the necessary funding is to build 480 flats on the site with only 40 of these being council flats. 440 of these flats will be completely unaffordable to the vast majority of local residents. We don’t need any more luxury homes in Hackney. As a Hackney council tenant for over 17 years I feel passionately that we need council house building on a massive scale. These 40 council homes, whilst welcome, are a pinprick to solving the housing crisis in Hackney where 2,700 families are homeless.

Instead of pressing ahead with this plan that would damage the local environment and could cost the council millions of pounds Hackney Council should use its reserves and borrowing powers and launch a determined campaign to demand the necessary funds from this government to cover the £17 million renovation of Britannia Leisure centre, to stop the cuts to public services in the borough and to launch a mass council home building programme.

None of the local councillors in Hoxton East and Shoreditch ward are opposed to this plan despite clear opposition of many local residents. That’s why I’ll be standing in this ward in the May 3 council elections as the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition candidate to give the local community the opportunity to vote for a candidate who puts a real alternative to Hackney council’s plans.

The Gazette’s recent front page called into question the need for more schools in Hackney, writes Pat Turnbull, Save Britannia Leisure Centre.

The Save Britannia Leisure Centre campaign has always questioned the need for the City Academy Shoreditch Park, part of the dense and tall collection of buildings with which Hackney Council is proposing to replace the Britannia Leisure Centre.

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The housing in the Britannia development itself is only envisaged in the planning application – now published – to house 50 under-fives, 33 primary pupils, 17 secondary pupils, and nine post-sixteen.

This is because such a tiny proportion of the 481 proposed dwellings is family housing, and only 48 are social rented homes.

The planning application says: “Local primary schools are operating at 94 per cent of capacity, providing capacity for 406 additional pupils within one mile of the site...” It continues: “There are 41 secondary schools located within three miles’ walking distance of the site... The schools are operating at 86pc of their capacity, and current school enrolment could increase by over 5,100 pupils and they would still be within capacity...”

The figures are based on data as recent as 2016. These figures raise fears that other schools could be at risk of being run down and closed because of excessive capacity, causing serious disruption to the education of hundreds of pupils.

Apart from this important consideration, the site itself has many negative features when considered for a school.

It has a PTAL (Public Transport Accessibility Level) of poor to moderate. Not the best for a school of 1140 pupils. Nevertheless “the school would have a zero parking policy for visitors and staff with the exception of one blue badge bay” and “a mini-bus bay”.

As to demolition and construction, projected to last at least six years, it is not reassuring to read: “There are no current national standards or guidelines that define noise limits for construction sites.”

The four residential buildings for market sale next to the school, including two towers of 25 and 16 storeys plus a 10 storey block, would be built between 2021 and 2024 – after the academy school would be completed and occupied, scheduled to be in 2021.

The current intake on the temporary site on Haggerston Park would be in the middle of their GCSE courses.

As the planning application says: “Noise and vibration resulting from demolition and construction activities has the potential to cause temporary disturbance to surrounding sensitive receptors.” Residents who have experienced the construction of the nearby Hoxton Press towers will testify how very disturbing this actually is.

There is not space to consider the many negative implications of a school in this proximity to 400 market dwellings including tall towers.

Just one concern is daylight and sunlight. The planning application says: “The playground receives sunlight throughout the year, primarily in three windows – morning from Pitfield Street as pupils are arriving into school; in the middle of the day from between the residential towers providing sunlight at break time and lunch time and finally, in the afternoon when the pupils are going home.” You are invited to read between the lines.

Objections to the Britannia Development Plan can be sent to quoting application number 2018/0926.

It is rare I actually agree with something the MP for Hackney North says but I agree with her when she says a good result for Labour in the local elections will help make Corbyn prime minister, writes Christopher Sills, Dunsmure Road, Stamford Hill.

The opposite is also true: a good result for the Conservatives would make it less likely and the election of a Conservative mayor and/or Conservative control of the council for the first time since 1968 would be so devastating he would be unlikely to survive as leader of the opposition.

Locally, a Jeremy Corbyn style policy was introduced in May 1982 with the result services collapsed and Hackney became a national joke. It took 20 years for Hackney to recover. The mayor’s failure to stand up to Momentum is a worrying sign.