Britannia Leisure Centre and the changing face of Shoreditch Park

Squash being played on the opening day of the Britannia Leisure Centre in Hackney. 

Squash being played on the opening day of the Britannia Leisure Centre in Hackney. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Last month Hackney's new Britannia Leisure Centre opened its doors and saw 10,000 people visit within the first week

But some residents have expressed concerns over the new Britannia and the wider development at Shoreditch Park. 

The centre opened on June 30 following a two year build as part of the Britannia project, which is delivering a new secondary school for the City of London Academy Shoreditch Park and hundreds of homes. 

The facility features rooftop football pitches, a water flume, swimming pools, fitness studios, squash courts, a sports hall and a cafe and toilets that also serve Shoreditch Park. 

Vivian, who lives in De Beauvoir, after a visit to the new Britannia leisure centre. 

Vivian, who lives in De Beauvoir, after a visit to the new Britannia leisure centre. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Many residents have praised the facility with one resident telling the council: "It's amazing - the best gym I have even been in. There's so much space."

Another visitor, Lisa, who did not give her surname, was a lifeguard at old centre on Pitfield Street in 1991, which is set to be demolished.

Lisa, who used to be a lifeguard at the old Britannia leisure centre in 1991, lives by Shoreditch Park.

Lisa, who used to be a lifeguard at the old Britannia leisure centre in 1991, lives by Shoreditch Park. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

She said: "It was very emotional to do my last spin class in the old centre - but it's a positive thing to move forward.

"The new centre is the future and is needed in the area."

Malcolm from Hoxton checks out Britannia Leisure Centre. 

Malcolm from Hoxton checks out Britannia Leisure Centre. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

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Some residents however, worry about the impact the council development will have on the area and residents living there.

A group that has opposed the plans since they were announced, called the Save Britannia Leisure Centre Campaign (SBLC), has complained about noise from the centre's pool filtration equipment and announcement speaker, which it says: "Can be heard even with windows closed."

Following an investigation, the council found an external louvre had been rattling and contractors were asked to address this along with issues raised in relation to PA announcements.

Merdan from Hoxton at the leisure centre's new cafe. 

Merdan from Hoxton at the leisure centre's new cafe. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Meanwhile SBLC says the number of affordable homes is “nowhere near” Hackney's planning policy of 50 per cent affordable housing.

It shared concerns that the majority of expensive housing will hike up local prices and rents, forcing residents out of the borough.

The local authority plans to build 481 homes, 81 of which are affordable, with 48 for social rent and 33 for shared ownership. 

It says the outright sale homes in the Britannia project do not make a profit for the council, but instead help fund investment in social housing and community facilities in the absence of "sufficient government funding". 

The council rejected claims by the group that its not-for-profit cross-subsidy approach was "speculative", adding that there is "no evidence" that the development will hike up prices and force people out.

A view from the rooftop pitches at the new Britannia Leisure Centre. 

A view from the rooftop pitches at the new Britannia Leisure Centre. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Member of SBLC Pat Turnbull asked about the 60 trees cleared on the site for City Academy Shoreditch Park, saying it is not a “good environmental look”.

But the council believes the project will improve biodiversity in the area, with the planting of 100 new trees, improved local walking and cycling routes and 1,000 new cycle parking spaces.

Swimmers on opening day at Britannia Leisure Centre. 

Swimmers on opening day at Britannia Leisure Centre. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

Pat also said the council’s own planning application published in 2018 indicated the school was not needed and believes it's opening on a temporary site in 2017 was used as "wedge"  to "force through the Britannia project a year later". 

She said: “There were 41 secondary schools within a three mile walking distance which could take 5,100 more pupils and still not be full. 

Outside of the new leisure centre in Shoreditch Park. 

Outside of the new leisure centre in Shoreditch Park. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

"Now we hear, as we feared, that other Hackney secondary schools are under threat because of surplus places."

The Parents Community at Shoreditch Park Primary School, has expressed concerns over plans to build two tower blocks on the school's playground.  

Parent Mary Seleznova said: "The loss of the play area is suggested to be compensated by a separate multi-use games area.

"But this area is irrelevant because it cannot provide the full range of opportunities, which exist on the big school playground now."

Hackney and Tower Hamlets' Impact FC playing on Britannia's rooftop pitches. 

Hackney and Tower Hamlets' Impact FC playing on Britannia's rooftop pitches. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

In response, Cllr Chris Kennedy, portfolio holder for leisure, said: “The state-of-the-art Britannia Leisure Centre is an incredible new facility, designed in partnership with local people."

The councillor said thousands of residents have been enjoying the facility and that the council is "working with contractors to address any minor snagging issues as they arise.

Russell learned to swim in Britannia 30 year ago. 

Russell learned to swim in Britannia 30 year ago. - Credit: Sean Pollock Photographer

"We will continue to take residents' comments on board and rectify any issues as we encounter them," he added.

To book a session at the centre, use the Better app or visit www.better.org.uk.

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