The ‘West End Extra’ reports;
“THE fundamental reason for bulldozing a popular sports centre in Queen’s Park has been shot down by critics this week who say it will “not result in a significant improvement” in leisure facilities.
City Hall has claimed knocking down two sports centres and combining them on a single site will lead to a “40 per cent increase in sporting facilities in the area”.
But in their formal response to proposals to demolish the Jubilee Sports Centre, opponents warned that the claim had “no basis in fact”.
Julius Hogben, a retired BBC technician who has lived in Beethoven Street for 35 years, told the West End Extra: “We see no sense in demolishing the existing Jubilee Centre, which is a popular centre serving its local community in one of Westminster’s most deprived wards, and then replacing it with a new centre 0.8 miles away in the borough of Brent.”
Planning chiefs are expected to make a final ruling next month on proposals to sell off the building to private property developers. There is a plan to build 20 townhouses and 64 flats on the site, with 72 of the new homes earmarked for sale on the private market.
In exchange for the lucrative deal, developers Willmott Dixon will use some of their profits to create new sports facilities on the site of the Moberley Centre in Kilburn Lane.
The scheme was masterminded by Westminster Council, who will ultimately make the final decision on their own proposals. Supporters of the cost-saving project believe that combining the two centres on one site will save £600,000 a year in maintenance and running costs.
Promoting the development to residents, the council has said the changes, which they have branded “Active Queen’s Park”, will provide “a 40 per cent increase in sporting facilities in the area across four sites – a space equivalent to two Olympic- sized swimming pools.”
In an official response to the planning application, the founders of the Save Our Jubilee campaign told council planning officials this had “no basis in fact”, adding: “Contrary to the claims [of] a ‘myriad of improvements to local sports and leisure facilities’, the proposed developments largely replace existing facilities and will not result in a significant improvement, in terms of quantity and quality, to the range of the range of leisure facilities available to residents in Queen’s Park ward.”
Mr Hogben and fellow campaigner Tony Reilly pored over the two planning applications – one has also been submitted to Brent Council – and compared the existing sports facilities with the proposals.
In their formal objection they added that the new homes would be “too costly for anyone in the Queen’s Park community,” adding: “The plan is not only to demolish our chief community asset.
“It is also to parachute into the area a foreign island of luxury homes, into the heart of a community in need of greater community cohesion, not less.”
The majority of the new facilities will be located a 10-minute walk away at the Moberley Sports Centre, which, although owned by Westminster, is just over the Brent border.
The objectors have calculated that the new facilities will provide roughly the same amount of space as the two existing sports centres, with other benefits spread out at two additional sites.
The outdoor football pitch at the Moberley will be lost and replaced with a new pitch two kilometres away at St Augustine’s Church of England Primary School.
Cllr Steve Summers, who is leading the Active Queen’s Park plans, said: “All objections will be considered when the application is heard at planning committee.
“If approved, the plans represent a significant 40 per cent increase in sports provision for Queen’s Park, one of the most socially deprived areas in Westminster”.
Save the Jubilee campaign is urging people to make their voices heard. Instructions are available at: http://www.savejubilee.me
A series of videos have been made, which can be viewed by following @saveourjubilee on Twitter.
The strength of opposition, change of plans…the story so far
IN 2010, when ousted leader Colin Barrow was still in charge of City Hall, a review of all council-owned sports facilities was undertaken.
It concluded that the Moberly and Jubilee were costing the council £600,000 a year to run.
They said the two centres – which are one kilometre apart – were competing for the same customers. They said the area could not “viably accommodate two sports centres so geographically proximate”.
They decided the quality of the two sites was “very low” and wanted to replace it with “a high quality and accessible facility for the whole community in Westminster’s most socially deprived ward”.
But, with a newly-appointed coalition government intent on implementing an austerity drive that would cut Westminster’s budget by over £100million, the decision was taken to find an “innovative solution through a partnership with a private sector developer.”
And so the council appointed Willmott Dixon and gifted them the site in the middle of Queen’s Park, in return for a £17million investment in new facilities to replace the existing council-owned sports centre in Kilburn Lane, just over the Brent border.
The Jubilee site will be replaced by 20 town houses and 64 flats.
All will be sold on the private market by Willmott Dixon except 12 flats which will replace the existing 12 affordable homes that have been left derelict on Lancefield Street and Caird Street.
As a concession to local opposition the council changed their plans last year and will now include a 700 sq ft general use sports hall in Caird Street.
Various rounds of public consultation have been carried out and 51 per cent of those that replied to the council’s questionnaire in 2012 were opposed to the scheme.
A petition in opposition to the plans, also compiled in 2012, gathered more than 5,000 signatures.
Around 70 people attend the final public meeting in January, with the majority opposed to the development.
The council says the new Moberly site will include one swimming pool, one training pool, an eight court sports hall, exercise and dance studios, a multi-use hall, boxing hall, health and fitness suite and spa.
A football pitch will be built in Kilburn Park, to replace one that will be lost at the Moberly.
An outdoor gym and games area will be built in Queens Park Gardens.
Cllr Steve Summers, who is leading the scheme, said: “If approved, residents will have access to more sporting facilities than both the current Moberly and Jubilee centres combined can offer, in one of our wards with the highest levels of physical inactivity.”
Views on the streets of Westminster…
Sebastien Lambot, 35, is the owner of a new burger joint at Acklam Village Market.
He moved to London from France 12 years ago. Living in such close proximity to the Jubilee, he said was “one of the reasons” he moved to the area three years ago.
Mr Lambot lives one street away from the centre with his wife and young child, with whom he goes swimming a couple of times a week, in what he called “part of a normal education”. He said: “This is the biggest asset of the neighbourhood, it brings people in, and it is a central part of the community, it’s always full.
“I don’t understand why they want to close it”. Mr Lambot thinks the plans to tear down the building and renovate it under private ownership will “change lives”, with the area getting more and more expensive.
Sheila Taylor, 63, a teacher at the nearby Ark Franklin primary academy says that her pupils visit the Jubilee twice a week, and its closure would mean some of the nearby schools would have the “hassle” of getting buses to the new centre in Kilburn Lane.
As a resident of the area for more than 40 years, Ms Taylor was critical of Westminster Council for giving away a public, community, space to private profit-seekers.
She said: “I think the government are selling off too much of our property and our heritage is going down the pan.”
Ms Taylor’s standpoint was unequivocal on the importance and value of places for communities to interact and mix, and she added: “I don’t think any sports centre should close down”.