Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Friends of Marshall Street Leisure Centre, Soho
A HISTORY OF THE CLOSURE OF THE MARSHALL
STREET LEISURE CENTRE
Westminster City Council issues a planning brief
for the Marshall Street Leisure Centre and Poland Street Car Park.
It is believed that planning began as early as 1993.
Council invites expressions of interest from
property developers and leisure operators. Initial appraisals
concluded that the leisure centre would require cross-subsidy
from the car park/office/retail development.
Decision made publictemporary closure
announced for August.
Petition of 4,000 signatures raised urging Council
to keep the Centre opened until planning permission and finances
Friends of Marshall Street formed committed
re-opening of the Centre as soon
at affordable prices; and
retaining the original architectural
Friends organise "naked protest"hockey
team carrying goal posts through the streets chanting "Save
Centre is closed.
Council promises re-opening in "18 months
to two years".
Council agrees minimum service requirements.
Benchmark plc appointed as "preferred developer"
for the site. Negotiations with other developers discontinued.
Press criticism that an ex-Director of Planning for the Council
is now a director of Benchmarkadjacent sites have been
acquired by Benchmark prior to their appointment.
Public exhibition reveal plans for 7 level underground
car park, separate entrances for public and private users of the
leisure centre and plans to turn the second pool into a private
gym and café.
Council admits that public consultation was
Second public exhibition held of plans, supported
by leaflet distribution and consultation sessions. Plans are not
altered since January.
Results of consultation published:
"Redevelopment proposals largely supported
. . . principal issues identified by the consultation are:
concern to re-open the centre as
soon as possible;
that services should primarily be
for members of the public;
concern for children's facilities
and re-opening of the small pool; and
concern for the leisure centre's
Friends organise Street Party to mark the first
anniversary of the closure.
Council withdraws from Benchmark deal "a
viable scheme could not be achieved". Reasons believed to
be: public concern over part-privatisation of the Centre, residents'
concern over car park and threat to local recording studios from
Labour Councillors call for inquiry into Benchmark
"fiasco"cost of consultation exercise estimated
Council begins negotiations for separate development
of leisure centre and car park.
Leisure Centre contract awarded to Vardonplans
still include replacement of second pool by private gym and segregated
facilities for private members and the public.
Friends express grave concern over "apartheid"
with the public being treated as second class citizens.
Cannons given Council approval to develop Centre
as part-private health clubestimated opening in 2001.
Friends organise "Queue for the Pool"
to mark second anniversary and the date that the Council promised
the Centre would re-open.
It is announced that a survey has revealed additional
problems with the roof structure which are likely to add £2
million to the redevelopment cost. Cannons declare commitment
to project if the Council funds the additional £2 million.
Council declares it cannot fund the development
and withdraws from negotiations with Cannons. The Centre is to
close "for the foreseeable future".
English Heritage announces it is placing the
Centre on its register of "Buildings at Risk".
Press reports that the sale of property owned
by the Council could generate up to £60 million. Labour Councillors
claim that up to £30 million could be spent on leisure centres
and libraries without breaking Government spending limits.
Leader of Council writes, "I am not optimistic.
It would be wrong of me to raise your hopes of any imminent solution
to the use of this site".
Friends present petition of over 1,000 signatures
deploring the Council's lack of progress and calling for a re-opening.
Marshall Street included in The Independent's
Guide to the Best Swimming Pools in the World.
Friends mark the third anniversary of closure
by making Michael Palin and Roger Deakin Honorary Patrons.
Vice Chairman on the Environment and Leisure
Committee at Westminster Council is reported as saying "The
building has come to the end of its life . . . I personally would
like to see another leisure centre in Westminster".
Notices on the Centre explain that the Council
is still seeking solutions. It apologises for any inconvenience.
4 December 2001