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Proposal to rebuild Finsbury leisure centre revealed

PUBLISHED: 15:58 26 March 2013 | UPDATED: 15:59 26 March 2013

Finsbury Leisure Centre

Finsbury Leisure Centre

Archant

An ambitious plan to rebuild a popular leisure centre and construct scores of council homes was revealed this week.

Council bosses want to knock down and replace Finsbury Leisure Centre and also erect around 100 homes on the surrounding land to help ease Islington’s housing crisis.

The multi-million pound proposal is in very early stages but was released to the public on Monday as Islington Council launched a six-week consultation.

It will be the latest major project in an area that has already seen the lengthy rebuild of Ironmonger Row Baths and the opening of a pioneering mini power plant, the Bunhill Energy Centre.

Cllr James Murray, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development, said: “There is so much pressure on housing in the area and new private homes are so expensive.

“This is a big scheme and it’s an opportunity to build local homes for local people. These will be council homes at council rents [around a third of market rent] and people living in Bunhill ward will have priority.”

The cost of the project would run into several millions of pounds. Some of the flats would be sold to raise cash, while the council says it will save on the maintenance of Finsbury Leisure Centre in the long-run, which has been estimated at £1million over the next five years.

The land, a square plot between Central Street and Helmet Row, currently houses the leisure facility, squash courts, football pitches, energy centre and a private nursery.

Councillors have promised that all the pitches will remain and there will be little disruption to leisure provision during the build. Finsbury Leisure Centre is used by more than 5,000 people.

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “Like many buildings of this vintage, it needs lots of money spent on it to keep it standing still.

“This is a good opportunity to rebuild it and the provision will be very similar. I don’t want to give a cast iron guarantee, but the idea is that building will be phased so people will be able to continue to play sport there.”

Some residents have tentatively welcomed the proposal. Sheila McBirnie, secretary of the TMO on the nearby Pleydell Estate, off Radnor Street, who was upset when the Ironmonger Row project dragged on for more than two years, said: “People are very protective of their leisure centres around here. I’m pleased to hear there are plans to protect and keep Finsbury Leisure Centre.”

Community activist Leo Chapman, of Dufferin Street, Finsbury, said: “They have got to be careful not to make it too high, otherwise it will dwarf St Luke’s Gardens next to the site. But I would welcome the development as long as it is appropriate to the setting.”

Residents can have their say on the St Luke’s area draft planning brief between now and May 6. Visit www.islington.gov.uk/stlukes.

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