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South London residents torn over approval of controversial leisure centre that thousands petitioned against

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Kingston residents are divided after plans for the borough’s new leisure centre were approved last week, with some citing concerns about the cost of the £40milloin project. Plans to bulldoze the old leisure centre were approved in March 2022 – despite a petition signed by more than 3,800 locals to save it.

The old Kingfisher Leisure Centre on Fairfield Road closed in 2019, initially for routine maintenance. However, during the works concerns were raised about the structural integrity of the roof which required further investigation. It has been closed ever since, meaning some families have struggled to take their children swimming.

Kezia Coleman, who stood for stood for Labour in the local elections in Kingston, told MyLondon: “I’m not against a new community pool. I would have preferred and council to have been more pragmatic earlier on, and fix the roof instead of leaving Kingston with out a pool for a while.

READ MORE: London council apologises for accidentally announcing approval of new leisure centre before decision is even made

Plans for the new leisure centre were approved last week

She continued: “It’s important to have access to these affordable facilities, with the cost of living crisis, for mental health and well-being.”

Work to demolish the old, unsafe Kingfisher leisure centre will start in the summer as preparations to deliver the new facility begin.

‘State of the art facilities’

Kingston Council has promised that a variety of different facilities will come with the new leisure centre, catering to the borough’s diverse needs. That includes five-a-side rooftop football pitches, two swimming pools with spectator seating, a children’s splash deck and a climbing wall.

Steve Kent, who stood as a Conservative candidate in Kingston, said he questioned the council’s plans, adding that the plans do not seem to cater for families. He told MyLondon: “I strongly believe the Kingfisher should have remained a family orientated pool.

“The splash deck is tiny and makes it difficult for families with children of various ages to have a day out together. There is very little here for younger children and a coral reef like pool would be a great asset to Kingston.”

A borough divided

Kingston leisure centre

The new leisure centre will cost around £40m to build

However, for some residents, the introduction of a new state of the leisure art facility can only be a good thing. Ian Turnbull, who lives in the area, told MyLondon: “It appears that all the objectors looked at the old leisure centre through rose-coloured spectacles.

“I looked to become a member [of the old leisure centre] about six years ago and received a guided tour. The gym was small, had limited equipment and was quite grubby. The pool had cracked tiles, again was grubby and not at all inviting…the roof had problems but really the whole building was degrading.”

There appears to be a clear divide among residents over the new plans, as almost 4000 people signed a petition last year opposing the plans. The plans also contributed to the resignation of a former Kingston councillor, Jon Tolley, who resigned over the “dishonest” nature of the proposals.

However, a consultation carried out by the council found that 75 per cent of locals supported the introduction of a new leisure centre.

Following the approval of the plans, leader of Kingston Council Andreas Kirch said: “Delivering this state-of-the-art, disabled-friendly leisure and community complex is one of our top priorities. We want all our residents to live happy, healthier, fulfilling lives, and having this fantastic facility right in the centre of Kingston.

MyLondon has contacted Kingston Council for comment.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/south-london-news/south-london-residents-torn-over-24115789