More evidence of the true face of the Olympic "sporting legacy", as Newham council has announced that it plans to shut down the Atherton Leisure Centre in Stratford on December 31st 2011.
In a statement on the council's website, it says that the closure is the result of "spiralling costs for the repair of the ceiling over the centre's main pool and an estimated maintenance requirement of more than £2.2 million over the next ten years". Mayor Sir Robin Wales insists that the council is committed "to providing a new facility with a pool as quickly as possible and we want people to have a say in what else might go in it", adding:.
However, minutes of a council meeting on 22 September [PDF] make clear that "at present there is no identified capital funding for the new facility [to replace the Atherton Centre], and no external investment has been secured". It adds that "here is significant risk that the capital financing will not be secured for a replacement facility".
"We would like to have kept the centre open while we look at all the options but we simply cannot afford to do that. It would be foolish and a complete waste of money. We need to replace the leisure facility. Doing repairs is money down the drain."
Council officers also acknowledge that there is insufficient capacity within other facilities in the borough to cope with the closure of the Atherton Centre - there will be severe problems in accommodating the School Swimming Lesson Programme that currently uses the Atherton pool to full capacity, as well as 81 private swimming lessons and aerobics classes, fitness sessions and football clubs.
The Atherton Centre has approximately 240 000 visits a year, 23% of the borough total visits to Leisure Centres. Its loss, with no concrete plans for a replacement, will have a significant impact on leisure facilities locally and it will cost local taxpayers £80,000 to decommission the building. The planned closure also seems to have been in part influenced by the end of the current contract with Greenwich Leisure Ltd, who currently tun the centre. Meanwhile, the planned opening of the Olympic Pool to the public is not due to take place until 2014. So what happens over the next two years?
Tomorrow , a protest is planned to show the council that local people are not prepared to accept the closure of a popular community resource. Meet outside the Atherton Centre (189 Romford Road) at 11am.