The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“DEVELOPERS who plan to replace a community sports centre with luxury flats are under pressure to reveal how much money they are set to make in the deal.
Controversial plans to bulldoze the Jubilee Sports Centre in Queen’s Park were debated at a packed public meeting last Thursday. Under the plan, a swimming pool will be lost at the centre in Caird Street and replaced with flats and a new sports hall.
Developers Wilmott Dixon are making the application in partnership with Westminster Council and will see a new £19million sports facility built on the site of the Moberly Centre in neighbouring Brent.
But it has been claimed there is a “lack of clarity and a lack of transparency” in the process, which will see publicly-owned buildings replaced with private homes.
The council says the scheme will “deliver more than a 40 per cent increase in facilities, equivalent to two Olympic-sized swimming pools, for local residents.”
But opponents of the scheme say they will be losing a well-used and publicly-owned facility, to pay for a new sports centre in a neighbouring borough.
Residents at the meeting said they had questions over the profit that would be left at the end of the project. They believe the sale of houses built both on the Jubilee site and in Brent would raise up to £150million, leaving “many millions unaccounted for”.
Speaking at the meeting last week, Labour leader Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg called for an “open-book” approach from both Willmott Dixon and City Hall.
“At the moment, because there is this lack of clarity, lack of understanding, lack of transparency, there is bound to be this mistrust,” he said. “Particularly where public assets are involved, I don’t think it’s acceptable in this day and age for things to be done in secret.
“One of the ways in which the concerns can be dispelled is if the council and if Wilmott Dixon waive their right for the figures to be confidential. After all, this is public land, which is going to have a public facility, paid for by private housing, which we all know is rising in value every minute of the day. There’s huge sums of money involved here and I think there is a basic lack of trust. I have no doubt that Wilmott Dixon are extremely professional and would do things absolutely correctly, as would Westminster Council. As it’s two professional organisations involved in this, let’s put our cards on the table. Let’s have an open book, with the figures clearly displayed, so that whatever the profit is can be clear and people can make a judgment.”
Cllr Steve Summers, cabinet member for community, said: “If the plans are approved, the building of the new sports facilities for Queen’s Park will be funded by Wilmott Dixon, who will recoup the money they spend on the new facilities through the sale of the new homes. The costs of the development have been carefully scrutinised by the council to ensure the best deal possible for Westminster taxpayers. Should the new homes go for more than what’s estimated, the council will share any additional profits which it will invest back into providing services to benefit Westminster residents.”