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Mulit-million pound Finsbury Leisure Centre development moves ahead despite more than 1,000 residents voicing fears

PUBLISHED: 13:08 31 October 2014 | UPDATED: 15:54 31 October 2014

Finsbury Leisure Centre

Finsbury Leisure Centre

Archant

An ambitious multi-million plan to redevelop a leisure centre is moving ahead - despite the fears of more than 1,000 residents.

The St Luke’s Planning Brief , a huge scheme designed to replace Finsbury Leisure Centre and the East West Nursery, in Norman Street, build more than 100 new homes and a new doctors’ surgery, was nodded through by Islington Council’s ruling executive on October 23.

Still in it’s early stages, the plan will now be finalised in more detail despite several petitions against the move – including one that gathered 836 signatures before it closed.

Fears voiced on the petition include the much-loved outdoor football pitches being reduced in size, number or being hidden, the surrounding trees being destroyed, or the “sanctuary-like feeling” of St Luke’s Square Gardens being ruined.

Robert Sams, from nearby Dance Square, who launched one of the petitions, said: “For those who are aware of the brief, there is almost universal opposition to it.

“At issue is not the building of new flats, but rather the building of flats along Central Street, where the two largest football pitches reside.

“These are heavily used, from morning until late evening, and their location on Central Street is part of what makes them so special.

“If a building were placed where those pitches currently reside, this open, community aspect of the area will be lost.”

He added: “Re-locating the pitches behind a building, out-of-sight from a heavily travelled route, will remove what is arguably the best local advertisement for youth sports that South Islington has.”

But council officers hope the latest plan, which covers an area bordered by Central Street, Norman Street, Mitchell Street and Helmet Road, will address some of these concerns.

And with Bunhill ward’s population expected to grow by 4,000 by 2026, the new homes are a town hall priority.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, representing Bunhill, said: “This is a great chance at a local level to redevelop the current leisure centre into a state of the art super centre and make better use of the surrounding area.

“We have huge pressures on housing and this will help to address that.

“The new GP surgery is essential - we only have one in Bunhill and at the moment it’s a lottery whether you get to see your doctor because they are so stretched.

“And we will ensure there are the same number of football pitches. While they won’t be in exactly the same place, they won’t be hidden away I don’t think - the plans aren’t finalised yet.

“I understand change is difficult, but this is a great opportunity.

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