Furore over closure of Stratford’s Atherton Centre

Angry residents have criticised Newham Council’s decision to close Atherton Leisure Centre and replace it with a new purpose-built facility.

The council’s announcement followed spiralling repair costs after the centre’s sauna and main swimming pool were closed over the past two years because of asbestos.

Michelle Turner, 40, of Stratford, who has been a fully paid member of Atherton for five years, said: “We are shocked.”

Rumours have been rife that Atherton would be closed to make way for Olympic facilities ever since London made its bid for the 2012 Olympic Games eight years ago.

John Law, who used the centre’s sauna until it was closed down for asbestos removal in January last year, received a letter from the council in April 2004 assuring him that Atherton would not be shut down without a “full community consultation”.

Mr Law said: “I think it’s a disgrace.”

Former centre user Imran Chaudhry called on the council to carry out a full consultation over the new centre so that the same “disastrous decisions” over East Ham Leisure Centre were not made again.

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Ms Turner, who is organising a campaign against the closure, said: “If they can’t afford to repair the roof, how they are going to afford to build a new centre?”

Newham Council has estimated cost of building a new facility on the Atherton site at between �11 million and �15 million.

A council spokesman said: “The council is committed to developing proposals for a new leisure centre that meets the needs of residents and users.

“A full consultation will open in mid-November and all residents and users will be invited to contribute their ideas, comments and feedback.

“A full timetable for the launch of the consultation, closure and opening of the new Atherton Leisure Centre will be published soon.”

The council is directing Atherton users to neighbouring facilities in Newham while building work on the new centre takes place.

If you want to join Michelle’s campaign against the plans, go to www.notsponsored.co.uk