LETTER: Labour let us down on leisure centre promises

Councillor Brian Palmer (right) with Chris Nicholson.

Councillor Brian Palmer (right) with Chris Nicholson.

First published in News

Lambeth Labour leader Councillor Steve Reed is putting it about that I and the Liberal Democrats in Streatham are against our new leisure centre.

Which is odd, to say the least, given that I was chairman of the planning committee that approved the Streatham hub scheme back in the summer of 2003.

It was also local Lib Dems that in 2001-02 had demanded the then Labour administration use its compulsory purchase powers to purchase the ice rink from Tesco, if necessary, to bring them to the negotiating table in the first place.

After Labour’s return in 2006 taxpayers’ money was used by Coun Reed to send out a peculiar Christmas card to residents proclaiming “Tidings of great joy” that work on the new leisure centre would begin the following spring.

Like many Labour promises this also failed to materialise.

In fact most of the next four-year Labour term passed by with nothing much happening other than the closure of our swimming pool.

Then on the eve of another council election and with nothing to show for it, Coun Reed announced he had torn up the agreement and would allow an even larger supermarket to be built concurrently with the new leisure centre. In exchange a temporary ice rink was billed to blight Streatham Common.

That plan was rebuffed by angry Streatham residents.

The council leader is right about one thing – work is finally under way and the supermarket and leisure centre may open in 2014.

However, the leisure centre would have been up and running years ago had his original personal promises been kept.

The only question marks now are, why no new sauna and steam facility when residents were promised a like-for-like replacement of services, and will he now give a clear personal assurance competitive ice events will again be able to take place in the new ice rink?

If not, the new rink risks losing its regional importance, a lot of potential business, and may end up as an expensive white elephant.

Councillor Brian Palmer, Liberal Democrat councillor for St Leonard’s ward

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