Our swimming correspondent, ANITA LOSTBOROUGH, on how a detail-lite announcement for lots more flats has been dressed up by the prospect of a new leisure centre… if we’re lucky, ready before 2028
Ever felt you’ve been conned?
Jason Perry, the Mayor of Croydon, this morning admitted that he had lied all the way through last year’s election campaign when he was telling the borough’s voters that he had a workable plan to re-open Purley Pool using just £3million of development infrastructure levy.
In an email sent only to Tory Party members (“Dear Valued Party Member”), Piss-poor Perry today revealed a “key milestone reached for Purley Pool”: the Conservative Mayor is handing over a massive chunk of public property to a private developer to redevelop the site, mostly into more flats (because of course, that’s exactly what Purley’s residents have been asking for in their town centre… not).
Developers Polaska, “who have been the long-term leaseholders of this site for some time”, according to a poorly drafted announcement on the council website, are to bulldoze Purley Leisure Centre, car park and neighbouring supermarket (Purley had a Sainsbury’s once, too…), and build on the site “a later-living housing development” – they mean retirement homes – “and new public space and shops to regenerate the high street”.
The actual number of flats proposed has been withheld. Expect a lot.
Polaska, Part-time Perry informed Croydon Conservatives, will also build a leisure centre including a six-lane main pool (25-metres? 50-metres Olympic-sized? Neither Perry nor the council bother mentioning that important detail), “smaller training pool for swimming lessons” (they mean a teaching pool), fitness studio and gym, as well as a soft play area for children and a café.
The last time that Jason Perry was involved at Croydon Council in announcing a major redevelopment of a town centre by a private developer, it was in 2012 when he was then the cabinet member responsible for Westfield’s plans for the Whitgift Centre, and we all know how that went…
So Purley residents had best not get out buying goggles and a new swimming cozzie just yet, because even with the help of a following wind, the building that Perry promised in 2022 could be re-opened “immediately” is now about to be bulldozed, with a replacement facility unlikely to be ready before 2027.
And by that time, Piss-poor Perry, the Mayor responsible for the 15per cent Council Tax hike, probably won’t even be Mayor of Croydon any longer.
But even that timeline might prove optimistic. “We are still at the early stages,” Powerless Perry said today.
Effectively, today’s announcement sees the Tory Mayor confirming what the previous Labour administration council officials and operators Greenwich Leisure had said since Purley Pool was closed for the pandemic lockdown in 2020: that the 1970s-built facility was no longer fit for purpose, too expensive to run, in need of too great a repair or replacement.
“It is now clear that re-opening the former pool would not be sustainable,” Perry said, a complete reversal of what he was saying little more than a year ago when he was seeking people’s votes.
“These are exciting proposals for modern leisure facilities, housing and a new public square in the heart of Purley town centre, which will help to revive the high street for everyone locally to enjoy.” Don’t mention Westfield!
“We are still at the early stages, but we will be working closely with Polaska to ensure that any new development is right for the local area and brings benefits to residents, businesses and the wider community.”
According to the council website, “early-stage designs” will be released at a public exhibition by the developers from June 20.
“The aim is for the construction of the pool to be fully funded through the development and the council will run and operate the new facility.” Given that the last two pools and leisure centres built in the borough – at Waddon and New Addington – both ended up costing around double the original budgeted estimate, that, at least, might save the cash-strapped council a few bob.
Polaska is hosting public exhibitions on Tuesday June 20, from 5pm to 8pm, and Friday June 23 June from 4pm to 7pm at Christ Church in Purley. There will also be a stall at Purley Fete on Saturday June 24, from 12pm to 4pm.
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