The draft plans for the future of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre being presented as the “final” consultation at the venue tomorrow would, if finally approved by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, make it virtually impossible for the elderly or disabled to access readily the swimming facilities there. They could also mean that there could be no swimming available at all on many weekends for the 7,000 people signed up as users at the centre.
And a new indoor athletics hall would put south London’s budding Usain Bolts on a collision course with… a brick wall, because the training facility proposed is too short to be fit for purpose.
That’s the dire warning from campaigners in the Crystal Palace Sports Partnership, who are also concerned at proposals to demolish the athletics stadium, as well as remove indoor football facilities under the scheme put forward by consultants working for the Greater London Authority.
The LCC-designed building that houses the swimming and sports hall, built like the rest of the facilities in the 1960s, has to remain virtually untouched due to its Grade II* listed status. But the consultants want to demolish the nearby 25-metre teaching and training pool, and spend millions of pounds on adding a moveable floor and boom to the original, Olympic-sized pool.
Half a century ago, no consideration was given to accessibility when designing sports facilities. The changing rooms for the Crystal Palace 50-metre pool were built underneath the pool, with access to the deck only up some steep, often wet, tiled steps.
The 25-metre pool was built in the 1980s, and it does have step-free access, which makes it ideal for use by the elderly and disabled, mother and baby groups and other, less confident swimmers who might, simply, be intimidated by the longer, deeper Olympic-sized pool.
“We favour keeping and enhancing the 25-metre pool, as it provides more inclusive swimming as it also allows fully segregated swimming sessions that can never be run in the 50-metre,” according to a spokesperson for the CPSP.
“The 50 is heavily in demand by clubs for training and events, and they need more access to that pool, not less, as would be an inevitable consequence of demolishing the 25.”
Greenwich Leisure Limited manage the facilities, and they have 7,000 members signed up as users at the NSC. “Demolish the 25-metre pool, and all members of the fitness centre will have no pool to use whenever there’s a swimming gala on, which is many weekends of the year.”
The CPSP has attracted the support of more than 16,000 signatories to a petition expressing concern about the latest, serially flawed plans, which include a sprints training hall in which it would be impossible to train as a sprinter.
John Powell has coached Olympic-calibre track athletes at Crystal Palace for four decades, during the winter months using an indoor training facility hiddden away underneath the walkway between the athletics stadium, the all-weather hockey pitches and the swimming hall.
Under the consultants’ plans, this is to be demolished, with a new indoor track provided along the side of the old motor racing circuit, where the Jubilee Stand – which is also earmarked for the bulldozers – stands now.
Trouble is, according to Powell, who is the chair of the CPSP, the planners never considered what size is needed for a worthwhile sprinting hall, which could be used by long jumpers, pole vaulters and all other “power athletes”, including throwers.
The proposed indoor track area is also remote from the sports centre and its changing facilities.
“The overall length for a sprints hall needed is around 120 metres, for a grassroots to elite training facility. Anyone running 60 metres flat out in training needs a considerable run-out area,” Powell told Inside Croydon.
“The Jubilee Stand is nowhere near that long, and when challenged, the planners clearly hadn’t considered this.”
Powell and the CPSP have put forward alternative suggestions which take account of the practical needs of centre users, and which could also accommodate strength and conditioning and weights gyms.
Powell seems unconvinced by the assurances offered by the consultants ahead of tomorrow’s event. “We are also repeatedly told these are draft plans that won’t be set in stone for possibly years, but…”, he says, offering a shrug of despair.
The event tomorrow, Saturday February 9, is billed as a “Community Conference”, which offers “a range of fun events for all the family”, with the project team making a presentation from 3pm and a discussion session from 4pm.
Due to the clash of the conference event and swimming championships, anyone wishing to attend is strongly advised to reserve a free place for the event – go to http://on-your-marks.co.uk/#events
Previous coverage of the future of Crystal Palace NSC:
- Assembly Member calls Chinese Palace plans a ‘fiasco’
- Coe is accused of ‘world-class hypocrisy’ over Palace plans
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