Council halves number of homes in leisure revamp plan

PUBLISHED: 13:32 02 April 2008 | UPDATED: 10:16 22 July 2010

Matthew Ingram

Matthew Ingram

A RADICAL £24million overhaul of leisure facilities in Finsbury has been broadly welcomed after Islington Council slashed plans for new housing.

A RADICAL £24million overhaul of leisure facilities in Finsbury has been broadly welcomed after Islington Council slashed plans for new housing.

Finsbury Leisure Centre, in Norman Street, will be demolished and rebuilt while the historic Ironmonger Row Baths will be extensively refurbished by 2011 in a bid to create an Olympic legacy in the borough.

More than 900 residents answered a questionnaire on the plans - the biggest ever response to a public consultation in Islington.

But proposals to build up to 940sqm of luxury flats to part-fund the scheme were downsized by half in the face of fierce opposition from residents in nearby Mitchell Row and Helmut Street.

Matthew Ingram, 36, of Mitchell Street, who spearheaded opposition from 40 residents, welcomed the move but called for guarantees that the new complex be built on the same site as existing leisure centre.

He said: "The primary concern is a wish not to be boxed in. The key issue is local space and we want to hammer it home that we don't want the architects to go mad."

Mr Ingram added: "I'd like to express residents' gratitude in taking on board our concerns. It's a good start and something we can build on."

Introducing the scheme as it was approved by Islington Council last Thursday, leisure chief Councillor Ruth Polling said: "We will be fully demolishing the leisure centre and refurbishing Ironmonger Row Baths to create extra space to provide the facilities people said they wanted. We will go for some housing but 435sqm is the maximum that the developer will be able to build - the size of the squash courts already on site.

"Part of the bidding process will incorporate how to minimise disruption and all developers asked to provide more green space. We will ask bidders to put as many facilities in Ironmonger Row Baths in the order the community has asked for them."

She added: "It's a balancing act and what we have is a compromise between the different aspects of what the community asked for. We will be going back to the community to have overall say on what happens there.

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