Council splashes cash on new pool that went £17m overbudget

Two years late and £17million overbudget, the New Addington Leisure Centre has finally opened.

Kathleen Herbert, 95, was among the first to try out the new New Addington pool

The building on Champions Parade is a particularly ugly block even as carbuncles go. It houses a six-lane, 25-metre pool and smaller teaching pool. There is a studio and community room for classes and activities, a sports hall, a 70-station gym and a café with indoor seating to serve centre users and the general public.

The council claims that the leisure centre is fully accessible with lift access to all three floors (but then, they said that of the refurbished Fairfield Halls) and accessible toilets and showers throughout. Easy access stairs in to the pool along with poolside hoists are available for access in and out of the pools as well as a special changing room which includes toilet, shower, changing bed and hoist, for those that need it.

The facility was supposed to have opened in 2018, but was delayed because of the demands of an adjoining Brick by Brick housing scheme which, no prizes for guessing, has yet to complete its eight family homes fronting on to Chertsey Crescent.

In a press release issued this week from Fisher’s Folly – the council’s flagship offices which has provided the blueprint for late-running, overbudget council projects in Croydon – they claimed that, “The leisure centre development is a key part of the council’s extensive regeneration plans for New Addington. Planning permission has been granted for a brand new community centre in Fieldway, combining the existing Fieldway Family Centre and the Timebridge Community Centre. A new free school for children with special educational needs is also planned to open on the Timebridge site in 2021.

“Residents have been consulted on further proposals, including a new wellbeing centre, improved open space in front of the new leisure centre, new homes and shops. Their feedback will inform future plans for the area.” Yeah, like they always do…

Among the first people to have access to the New Addington Leisure Centre were residents Kathleen Herbert, Henry Walsh and Christina Walsh.

Herbert, aged 95, has lived in Croydon all her life and had been swimming at the old New Addington Leisure Centre since that building opened in 1963. “I feel incredibly honoured and grateful to have been chosen,” she said after being asked to be the first person to use the pool.

“The pool and changing facilities are just brilliant; much bigger, wider and very easy to use. The staff are fantastic and very supportive. I look forward to popping in when the centre opens.”

Christine and Henry Walsh, aged 91 and 97 respectively, have been life-long swimmers, including at the previous New Addington pool.

The new gym in New Addington, with its array of machinery

“The centre is magnificent,” said Christine Walsh. “I was lost for words when I saw the swimming pool for the first time. It’s wonderful to see a brand new centre like this in New Addington. It’s going to be great for local people in the area. We’ll be coming along on a weekly basis.”

New Addington, just like the borough’s other leisure centres, will be managed by Greenwich Leisure Ltd, under their “Better” brand. The centre will be cash-less, which could present some access issues for younger users, and technological challenges for staff, if the experiences of leisure centres using a similar system in nearby Merton is anything to go by.

Like the Waddon Leisure Centre, which opened in 2013, New Addington has been completed at considerable additional cost when compared to similar sports centres that have been built in and around London. Originally budgeted to cost £8million, Croydon Council says that the final bill for New Addington is £25million – which is at least £10million more than similar leisure centres with pools.

Croydon Council has so far stubbornly refused to say how its £30million refurbishment of the council-owned Fairfield Halls – incomplete and unfinished, and managed by its housing development company Brick by Brick – managed to come in for at least £41million, claiming that it is a matter for the developers. Who will they try to pass the buck to for the added extra millions spent when they are asked where all the money’s gone on the New Addington Leisure Centre?

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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