New 14.7M Atherton centre gets the go-ahead

20 April 2012 in Health and Sport and leisure
Newham councillors have agreed to build a new, modern leisure centre on the site of the current Atherton Centre in Stratford.
Up to £14.7m has been identified in the council’s budget to spend on the new centre in Romford Road, which would include swimming facilities, a gym and space for fitness classes which residents and users said were priorities.

The plans were agreed by the council on Thursday (April 19) and work should be able to begin on the site in July next year with the new centre opening in January 2015. It also means that the gym and free weights area at the Atherton Centre would stay open until the end of 2012 at a cost of £190,000.

A key factor in the decision to create new facilities was an inspection assessment that revealed significant levels of asbestos-containing materials throughout the building.

A report to the council’s Cabinet suggested that repairing and maintaining the centre offered “poor value”. The same report also revealed that English Heritage has decided not to add the Atherton Centre to their list of buildings of historic interest because “it does not have the architectural quality or level of survival to meet the criteria for listing”.

The report asked Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales and councillors to agree to build a new centre on the same site that will “provide a modern, fit for purpose leisure facility that will better meet the needs of Newham residents”.

The report revealed the results of a 12-week consultation with Atherton users and local residents, which suggested both “would welcome improved facilities at Atherton”. Amongst the least important factors for both was keeping the existing building.

It added: “Having considered the results of the consultation alongside other considerations including value for money, it is considered that a new centre option is preferable for a wide range of reasons.

“It will meet the core requirements of residents for a gym, fitness classes and swimming facilities. It would be the greatest value for money over the life of the centre and represents an opportunity to create an environmentally-friendly building that is fully accessible to disabled people.”

A number of useful suggestions from residents and users about disabled facilities, play and crèche facilities, relaxation areas and changing facilities have been incorporated into the proposed development brief, which could also include an element of housing.

Newham Mayor, Sir Robin Wales, said: “We have been investing money into this building for 30 years and it is still not a good building. Our residents deserve better.

“It’s not a building we can take any pride in and it is certainly not practical in terms of inclusivity. What we offer young people has to be a part of this.

“The council got here because we were going to have to put substantial public funds in by removing asbestos and fixing the pool. Money is important to us and, ultimately, we cannot justify continuing these costs.”