NEWHAM council has hit back at claims that it will not replace the Atherton leisure centre and its swimming pools. It has also denied a rumour that it will turn the site into a car park.
The announcement last month that the borough hosting next year’s Olympics would demolish the privately run Stratford E15 4JF building shocked residents. They are annoyed they will have to travel to Plaistow and East Ham for a substitute for a centre in use for more than 70 years. The Olympic Games aquatics centre is less than a mile away.
The council insisted to Loving Dalston that it will not use the land for parking, even temporarily, once the site at the corner of Atherton and Romford roads has been levelled.
A protester, “Jon”, wrote on an internet petition to save the centre: “We have received some disturbing news from an insider within Newham Council… that Newham Council plan to demolish Atherton and use the site in some way to generate short term revenue during the Olympics (such as a carpark).”
The council contended that rising maintenance costs left it no choice but to close the Atherton at the end of the year. Roof repairs to the big swimming pool had risen to £250,000 since the discovery of deadly asbestos.
The West Ham Municipal Baths, as the centre was named when it opened in 1934, featured three pools, including one that could be converted to a concert hall for orchestral music, opera, ballet, ballroom dancing and a boxing/wrestling arena. The council said that despite the Atherton’s age, it is not listed.
Dr Graeme Betts, Newham council’s executive director for leisure, told Loving Dalston: “The centre will be rebuilt as soon as possible as a modern centre with a pool, located on the existing site.”
“We have started consulting with residents and centre users. Once we have information on what they would like, we will formalise our plans, including the construction timetable, and allocate funds for the rebuilding.”
* Photograph © Andrew Baker. The council advises anyone wanting to be kept up to date on the Atherton to email firstname.lastname@example.org
* Online petition: http://www.notsponsored.co.uk/