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Sobell Leisure Centre: Even trampolinists don’t want the controversial new trampoline park

PUBLISHED: 17:56 17 August 2017 | UPDATED: 17:22 18 August 2017

Some of the five-a-side footballers who have been displaced from the Sobell leisure centre in Holloway. Picture; Dieter Perry

Some of the five-a-side footballers who have been displaced from the Sobell leisure centre in Holloway. Picture; Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

The growing list of people opposing the installation of a trampoline park at the Sobell Leisure Centre now includes Islington councillors, Jeremy Corbyn, the granddaughter of Sir Michael Sobell and even trampolinists.

Celebrating the plaque to Sir Michael Sobell are (L-R) Cllr Catherine West, Gaie Scouller, Hilda Rubin, Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council's Executive Member for Planning and RegenerationCelebrating the plaque to Sir Michael Sobell are (L-R) Cllr Catherine West, Gaie Scouller, Hilda Rubin, Cllr Paul Convery, Islington Council's Executive Member for Planning and Regeneration

As revealed by the Gazette in April, the sports hall at the Hornsey Road centre is being converted into an “extreme” bounce arena to get kids exercising more. But five-a-side players who have lost their pitches as a result aren’t taking it lying down.

They say there was a lack of consultation by Islington Council and managers GLL – and aren’t happy about being asked to move to another location to play football.

Last month they threatened legal action against the town hall if it did not halt the work so a proper consultation could take place, but town hall lawyers said: “Bring it on.” They insisted there was no need for a consultation and the decision had been made properly.

So the protesters who stood on the town hall steps to lobby the council two months ago have called in some help.

June 27: Not much progress, but some fences had been erected alongside the badminton courtsJune 27: Not much progress, but some fences had been erected alongside the badminton courts

First, Jeremy Corbyn urged council bosses in a private letter to think again, and his calls were then supported by Cllr Paul Convery, who fought to save the Sobell from demolition in 2010, and former council leader, now MP, Catherine West. The Gazette understands other councillors are considering breaking rank over the issue.

Now an open letter sent by gymnast Adrian Stern has revealed even trampolinists aren’t in favour.

Adrian claims the sport has been “downgraded” since GLL took over the centre in 2014, with fewer trampolines and no advertising on the website. Although trampolining training will remain at the Sobell, the trampoline park won’t mean there’s more of it.

“Trampoline parks are not about sport,” he wrote. “[They] are entertainment attractions for children and teenagers [who will be] mainly left to their own devices to hurl themselves around.

Campaigners from both Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre outside the Town Hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects. Picture: Polly HanockCampaigners from both Barnard Park football pitches and the Sobell Centre outside the Town Hall before a council meeting discussing both controversial projects. Picture: Polly Hanock

“No serious trampoline training can take place in a trampoline park as British Gymnastics will not allow coaches to coach or clubs to be run inside parks given their safety record.”

Referring to the 1,200 signatures opposing the scheme, he added: “I, like many of the Sobell’s trampoline gymnasts, have signed the petition against this ill-considered idea of building a trampoline park as they may well seriously injure young people and by association give our sport a bad name.”

The UK’s tally of trampoline parks has leapt from six in 2014 to 144, but their popularity has also brought more injuries. Some require an ambulance as often as once a week, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

GLL, which runs five other trampoline parks, said it would have “robust” safety procedures to control the number of kids using it, and also hit back at claims the sport had suffered since it took over the Sobell.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured on election night at the Sobell Leisure Centre. Two months later he has urged a rethink on plans to build a trampoline park there. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA WireLabour leader Jeremy Corbyn pictured on election night at the Sobell Leisure Centre. Two months later he has urged a rethink on plans to build a trampoline park there. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

A spokesman said: “We offer a trampoline training programme in both the north and south of the borough totalling 14 hours a week with potential to increase this subject to programming.

“Since GLL took over, attendance on children’s trampoline courses has doubled. Local schools and special schools also use timetabled trampoline training sessions.

“We are very happy to meet Mr Stern and reassure him our trampoline park will be safely managed in accordance with guidance from the BSI and the National Trampoline Park Association.”

But perhaps the most withering assessment of the plans has come from the family of the man whose name is on the building.

Jeremy Corbyn voiced his concerns to Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council. Credit: Em FitzgeraldJeremy Corbyn voiced his concerns to Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council. Credit: Em Fitzgerald

Gaie Scouller is the granddaughter of philanthropist Sir Michael Sobell, who built and gifted the centre to the people of Islington in 1973.

In another open letter she wrote: “My grandfather would be appalled that people’s access to these facilities would be hugely limited in favour of a recreational attraction with games areas including a ‘wipe-out trampoline’, a ‘foam pit’, a ‘dodgeball’ area, ‘slam dunk’ basketball, a ‘battle beam’, balancing on a ‘slackline’ and climbing a ‘fidget ladder’.”

Whoever else weighs in, time is ticking. Although periodic photographs from inside the centre show progress has so far been slow, “major building works” are scheduled to take place from August 29 until September 6, giving the campaigners less than two weeks.

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