Campaigners fear for their Stratford leisure centre

Triathlete and leading campaigner Michelle Boswell addresses scores of concerned uses of Stratford’s council-run Atherton Centre minutes before a public meeting with leisure chiefs on Saturday.

Newham Council brand the 80-year-old building as ‘shoddy’ and want to pull it down to make way for sports and leisure facilities on the same site fit for the 21st century.

The building in the host London Olympic borough is riddled with asbestos, an official Town Hall report states, that could cost several millions to remove.

annual maintenance costs alone would be in the region of �250,000 announced Graeme Betts, Executive for Adult, community and Leisure. He was backed by Grant Aitken, Divisional Director for Leisure, over the 90 minute meeting, which was regarded as a “useful feedback exercise” by the officials who had promised “to take all points on board” before their final report to decision makers.

Officers were met by banner-waving adults and children when they arrived at the Romford Road facility some of which, including the main swimming pool, is already shut because of its condition.

Details on council plans to replace the centre were revealed publicly at the first drop-in session in a promised consultation.

Newham say they are being forced to close the centre at the end of the year and build a new fully accessible replacement with pool, because of spiralling costs and safety concerns.

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“The Centre is almost 80-years-old and the building is no longer fit for purpose.” said the council who closed the swimming pool in May for essential roof repairs only to discover asbestos, a further and potential fatal risk to public safety.

A Technical investigations concluded that the council cannot make the pool safe without a significant increase in costs. Other facilities in the centre are also in need of significant maintenance works and repair, said report.

But users fear being without the Atherton for many years and lost forever, given the London 2012 sports venues that will remain in legacy after the Games. They demand the much-loved neighbourhood facility be repaired and so remain open.