Gazette letters: Brittania meeting and special needs toilets

Campaigners hand in a petition calling on Hackney Council to save the Britannia Leisure Centre. Pict

Campaigners hand in a petition calling on Hackney Council to save the Britannia Leisure Centre. Picture: SAVE BRITANNIA LEISURE CENTRE - Credit: save britannia campaign

On Saturday, Hackney Council ran a workshop about a leisure centre planned to go on the tennis courts on Shoreditch Park, writes Pat Turnbull, Hackney, full address supplied.

This would be instead of Britannia Leisure Centre, which is still scheduled to be knocked down and replaced by two tower blocks of luxury flats, up to 24 storeys high. Another similar luxury tower block would go in the grounds of Shoreditch Park Primary School.

Participants, who included many current users of Britannia, were told at the start: “We are at a very early stage of the leisure centre design.” After that the answer to nearly every question about what would actually be in the replacement centre was “the intention is ...” or “the ambition is ...” No guarantees, no certainty, about anything.

We were told the council is “committed to continuity of provision” – in other words, the Britannia will not be knocked down until the replacement leisure centre is built. But when we asked how this would be financed since the whole development is supposed to be funded by the sale of 400 luxury flats, most of which would be built where Britannia is now, we were told: “The intention is the cash flow will be front ended by the council.” We asked about the overall budget but were told it was “commercially sensitive”.

Already two architect firms, an engineering firm, a planning firm and a landscape architect are being employed to work up the plans for the redevelopment. That’s in addition to the architects who drew up the original feasibility study, still not available to the public. That’s quite a lot of public money already being spent.

After the meeting a member of the public, angry to learn for the first time that Britannia was due to be demolished, asked the obvious question: why don’t you refurbish Britannia? The answer was, it will cost £14million. Leave aside that another figure of £5m has been suggested, or that neither of these figures has been backed up by evidence, she asked the next obvious question – well, how much will this new leisure centre cost to build? There was no answer.

Save Britannia Leisure Centre still believes it will be far better for the whole area to keep the Britannia. The proposed redevelopment is likely to go to the planning committee in spring 2018. If you don’t want to see the Britannia demolished and replaced by 400 luxury flats, please contact the mayor at You can keep updated via our Facebook page, savebritannialeisurecentre. More than 3,300 people have already signed our online petition.

Throughout the years I hear of the refurbishment of both Underground and Overground train stations but why have you not built urgently needed lifts for Stamford Hill Station? writes Paul Shaer, Amhurst Park in an open letter to the Prime Minister and Hackney’s culture boss Cllr Jonathan McShane.

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Why were they not built when the station was built? And when are we going to get train carriages wide enough to have gangways between the rows of seats to the special needs toilets? Then those of us with wheelchair users in the family would gladly use the trains more often.

But although wheelchair users are rising in the population each year, park rangers do not see many in Springfield Park. My fellow carers will not use the park due to the lack of proper facilities. The special needs toilet is dilapidated and has to be shared with men and boys who do not have special needs.

I know there are going to be major new improvements for the park including a special needs toilet, but one will not be enough. You must look years ahead, to the future. As I write, special needs babies are being born to mothers and fathers who could be teenagers. With modern treatments and the love of a family they will live a long and happy life.

Springfield Park has two halves. Therefore, you need three toilets – one at the bottom of the park so people can enjoy the River Lea and two at the upper part of the park. Each person needs different amounts of time in the toilet. My own family member needs a minimum of 20 minutes. Also, the toilet must be secure. I recommend the locks you have use a RADA key for which families can apply. A spare key can be kept at the rangers’ office or at the café.

Please make sure special toilets are only special needs toilets, not put together with baby changing facilities. Whoever thought of putting them together years ago did not know what they were thinking. First of all it is highly dangerous with the possibility of cross infection; secondly, I have often had to wait with my family member while a worn out mother or father is trying to change a baby while attempting to stop other children squabbling.

There will also be a need to find a few more spaces to park our cars. Rangers will still need to be vigilant regarding blue badges as people still use them illegally.

I know families who cannot afford a car. I know carers, young and old, who are on their own caring for loved ones. Therefore, Cllr McShane, you should consider buying transport similar to that used by hospitals so my fellow carers can go to the park all year round and enjoy the relative peace and quiet, the flowers, the birds and simply be free from being trapped in tower blocks.

The money wasted on HS2 could be better spent on special needs toilets in parks in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or on recruiting more police officers, nurses, fire officers, opening up fire stations and a wide range of other personal facilities we need.

A kindly neighbour who knows how busy I am offered to take two blue disposable cameras to be developed for me at Wood Green. He mislaid them somewhere. If any Hackney Gazette reader should happen to find them, please return them to me.

I am 71 in August and the films have members of my family on them. So, on the million to one chance they are found, that’s the only birthday present I need.