‘Don’t build a pool on our park!’ Residents react to new leisure centre plans

Valentines Park in Ilford

Valentines Park in Ilford - Credit: Archant

New plans to build a permanent leisure centre in one of Redbridge’s parks is already sparking controversy.

The council scrapped proposals for a temporary pool in Seven Kings last week and put forward an idea for a permanent £2.8million complex.

Seven Kings car park, in High Road, would be sold to fund the leisure centre, built on Barley Lane Recreation Ground, Valentines Park or South Park.

Residents have campaigned for another leisure centre since the closure of Ilford Pool in 2008 left just one public pool for 279,000 people in the borough.

Redbridge Swimmers chairman John Sharrock said he wanted to see more detail but would welcome “any pool, anywhere”.

But the South Park Users Group will be among those fighting any move to build on green space.

Member Anne Hoad said: “I think this is election year and they are grabbing at straws.

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“Parks are for the freedom of the people and they can’t just build on them willy nilly. It would cause uproar.”

She believes the council could be considering using a playing field to one side of the park in South Park Road, Ilford.

Another option – Valentines Park – is one of the most popular green spaces in the borough.

Barley Lane Recreation Ground, in High Road, Goodmayes, is used for its football pitches and free tennis courts.

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration revealed the plans at Thursday’s budget meeting in a last-minute amendment to their capital budget.

The Labour group was furious that the Conservatives had usurped its own plans for a permanent swimming pool released last month.

Labour leader Cllr Jas Athwal had opposed the temporary pool, which had a lifespan of two to five years, and put forward an idea for a permanent one in Seven Kings.

Cllr Keith Prince argued his proposal was better because it did not commit to a particular place or supplier. He added: “We will be holding a consultation on the proposals.”