Residents slam council’s Finsbury Leisure Centre plans

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Finsbury leisure centre
Credit Islington Council

Residents have upped the ante in their fight against a “disastrous” new development at Finsbury Leisure Centre.

Islington Council plans to turn the 50-year-old site into a tower block with nearly 200 new homes and a sports centre with rooftop football pitches.

The proposal has been met with fury from residents, who claim it will harm the community.

The council previously approved up to £6.7 million in fees and preconstruction costs for the project, which it says will alleviate the borough’s housing crisis, with around 100 council homes and 100 flats for sale.

St Luke’s and Burnhill residents Lize Evers, Eva Guerra and Iana Petkova formed EC1 Voices, along with other residents and Finsbury Leisure Centre footballers, in the new year.

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The campaign group is calling for a stop to overdevelopment in “one of the most dense areas” in the country.

Guerra said homeowners, social housing residents and footballers from the leisure centre are “enraged” by the council’s handling of the plans, including the lack of “deep and meaningful” engagement.

Cramming more people into a “very tiny space” and removing necessary facilities, like reducing the size of the football pitches, is “disastrous” and “destructive” for the social fabric of the community, Petkova added.

The council’s engagement has been a “top-down approach”, Guerra said, leaving residents in the dark about how their feedback is influencing the design.

The latest round of public consultation closed at the end of January.

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s deputy leader and executive member for finance, planning and performance, said the council is talking to local groups to “try and address their concerns” through public exhibitions, meetings with sports clubs, and an online survey.

“We’re now reviewing the feedback shared and will be presenting updated proposals in late spring,” he added.

“We are committed to working with the community to strike the right balance.”

Petkova said EC1 Voices has filed a complaint about the council’s leaflets, which they claim are “misleading” because the images didn’t reveal that the plan includes a 20-storey tower block.

A petition to save the football pitches and open space has attracted almost 3,000 signatures to date.

Alongside shrunken pitches with less capacity for players of all ages, the “massive” leisure centre risks casting a shadow over existing homes, Evers said.

“There isn’t any ‘nimbyism’ going on here. It’s a deep concern,” she added.

“Doing no harm is important. [The council is] already creating harm by not listening.”

Cllr Ward said: “Islington is facing a housing crisis. We need to make the best possible use of the space available to build life-changing council homes and fantastic new community facilities.

“Local people deserve decent places to live and better leisure facilities, and these proposals will deliver both.”

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