Highbury Leisure Centre: GLL agrees to cough up after neighbours say new extension is eyesore that doesn’t match plans

The ribbon is cut on the new leisure centre. Picture: GLL

The ribbon is cut on the new leisure centre. Picture: GLL - Credit: Archant

Neighbours and campaigners say the new Highbury Leisure Centre extension is an eyesore – and doesn’t match the plans that were originally agreed with the council.

The leisure centre ahead of its official opening. Picture: Kamal Sultan

The leisure centre ahead of its official opening. Picture: Kamal Sultan - Credit: Archant

Now GLL, which runs the facility, has agreed to shoulder the cost of “potential solutions” to the problem.

The centre’s multi-million-pound new build was agreed as part of a deal struck with social enterprise GLL.

It was approved on February 1, 2016, and took about 18 months to complete. Mayor of Islington Cllr Una O’Halloran formally opened it this week.

But people who live nearby say the finished building is a mess and blames contractors for cutting corners.

Alan Davison, campaigner and part of the Highbury Pool group, said: “Highbury East councillors helped us come up with a better plan because the original plan looked like an out-of-town Tesco.”

He is particularly unimpressed by the leisure centre’s “appalling” guttering, wrongly coloured windows, and the lack of alignment between metal poles and the building’s brickwork.

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He is also unhappy that two air conditioning units have been moved to the more visible east side of the roof.

Alan said: “The residents are very disappointed. They were quite hopeful we were going to finish up with a decent looking building and it’s just not as good as the original plans.

“It is costcutting; it’s classic, classic PFI costcutting. You wouldn’t have had this if the council had built it themselves.”

A GLL spokesman said: “We are pleased to say that work on the main building and its interior is now complete, ready to boost the fitness levels of many more Islington residents.

“We understand some local concern has been expressed about some of the exterior design elements, and this is being taken up with the relevant contractors and the council planning department.”

A council spokesman added: “Improvements to Highbury Leisure Centre are being carried out by GLL and its contractors.

“Some residents have raised concerns about elements of the building’s exterior, which we have investigated and discussed with GLL.

“They have worked on potential solutions, and have agreed to meet with residents again before submitting an application to amend the existing planning consent. GLL has agreed to bear all costs related to this work.

“As with any planning application, residents will be able to give their views before any decision is made.”