Petition launched against plan for 100 homes on Finsbury Leisure Centre site

Finsbury Leisure Centre

Finsbury Leisure Centre - Credit: Archant

More than 500 people are mounting a campaign against plans to squeeze one hundred flats onto one of the last pieces of inner-city greenery in the area.

A petition has been launched against plans to include scores of flats in the planned redevelopment of Finsbury Leisure Centre, off Central Street, Finsbury – and so far it has attracted some 550 signatures.

Campaigners claim the site is far too small for 100 homes and will result in the site – one of the very few green spaces left in Finsbury – becoming yet another part of the concrete jungle.

So far, Islington Council’s preliminary plans involve bulldozing the centre, the four football pitches, the Bunhill Energy Centre and the East-West Community Nursery in order to make way for a revamped leisure centre, an expanded energy centre, replacement football pitches – and both private and affordable flats.

The council says the flats will help fund the development – and will help ease the borough’s desperate housing crisis.

But campaigners are horrified by the number of homes, claiming it could result in the housing being built too high and the replacement pitches too small.

They are also angry that the new housing will face Central Street, where the football pitches are currently located, which will take away the sense of openness from the road and result in the new pitches being too close to LSO St Luke’s – the London Symphony Orchestra’s education centre – and St Luke’s Gardens.

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Campaigner Howard Lock, 49, a chartered surveyor of Dance Square, Finsbury, said: “There are lots of small spaces where they could put 20 or 50 homes rather than targeting a football pitch and one of the few remaining open spaces.”

Robert Sams, 41, also of Dance Square, said: “In this concrete jungle, this is one of the few places where there is actually a sense of community.

“Relocating the pitches behind a council block and taking them off Central Street will alter the community aspect.”

Julia Chan, 32, a violin dealer of Dance Square, who sings with the London Symphony Chorus at St Luke’s Church, added: “Having pitches next to St Luke’s Church and Gardens, where there are lots of classical music performances, just isn’t going to work.”

Meanwhile Dave Bailey, who runs The White Lion pub in Central Street, which got together a second 60-strong petition, said: “It’s going to be too crowded and we are going to lose the open space.”

Cllr Terry Stacy, leader of Islington Council’s Liberal Democrat opposition, added: “They should be going for small projects scattered about and not the sheer numbers they are proposing for this site.”

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health and wellbeing, said: “The existing Finsbury Leisure Centre needs around a million pounds spent over the coming years to maintain the facilities that are currently on offer, so doing nothing is not an option.”

Cllr James Murray, executive member for housing, said: “The plan gives us an important opportunity to build new council homes for local families.”