Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Camberwell Leisure Centre

Last night we held a meeting at St Giles Hall to hear presentations from the three shortlisted bidders to run the Camberwell Leisure Centre in the future. The meeting was extremely well attended, which is hardly surprising given the genuine community support that exists for a secure future for the Centre.

It was great that all three bidders attended the meeting, but if I am honest I was not that impressed with any of the presentations. Fusion/PETA's solution involves building 64 flats on the site and the loss of the sports hall at the rear of the centre. Although they are able to point to a recent success with the redevelopment of the Brockwell Lido, Camberwell seems to be a very different proposition. It was also a pity that their presentation boards were so small, which meant that many of those attending the meeting simply couldn't see!

Ash Sakula sounded sympathetic and portrayed themselves as the only partners for the Council who would preserve the heritage and facilities at the Centre. However, their proposal also involved the loss of the sports hall, and I am always slightly sceptical when a property developer is also involved in any supposed community scheme.

The English National Ballet's proposal is perhaps the most unlikely, as it involves the loss of the swimming baths at the Centre. Craig Hassall and his team from the ENB gave by far the most enthusiastic presentation of the evening, and but for the loss of the swimming pool, I can see that their proposal would probably bring greater community regeneration to the centre of Camberwell than either of the other proposals.

Of course, the ideal solution would be for the Council to find the capital which is needed to renovate the Centre - or even a solution which involved some capital from the Council and the ENB but maintained the swimming baths.

The Executive is due to take an "in principle" decision in October. It will not be easy, as it strikes me that the community loses out to some greater or lesser extent under all of the current proposals. If I were taking the decision it would probably be "back to the drawing board" time.

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