Barking sports centre users angry over new leisure centre plans

PUBLISHED: 11:07 01 June 2012 | UPDATED: 11:37 01 June 2012

The Elderberries members

The Elderberries members


Fitness centre users have voiced their anger over council plans not to feature a sports hall in a new health centre in Barking.

The campaigners, including around 50 members of elderly exercise group Elderberries and a number of badminton and football players, regularly use the large indoor facility at Abbey Sports Centre in Axe Street.

But the centre has been earmarked for closure in 2014 and the new £15million Barking Leisure Centre, that will replace it, will not feature a similar sports hall.

According to the council’s plans, which are currently on display at Abbey Sports Centre, the new complex will instead comprise of three studios, along with a swimming pool, learner pool, health spa and a gym.

Elderberries member Pam Dumbleton said: “At least 30 people turn up to the Elderberries classes, often more and we always use the whole of the hall.

“Our teacher sets up a training circuit around the room, which you need a lot of space for. This wouldn’t be possible in the studios.”

Fellow Elderberries member Rita Elliot, 72, added: “I would be very sad if we lost our Elderberries classes or if they weren’t as good as they are now. It’s so important to keep mobile as you get older and this is such an enjoyable way of doing it.”

Alan Dennison, 74, is also a member and plays badminton at the centre. He said: “We definitely need a sports hall if we are to carry on the Elderberries classes as they are. I’m also concerned that I won’t be able to play badminton and will have to use a private centre instead which is expensive.”

But a council spokeswoman insisted the studios were large enough to cater for the Elderberries classes and said badminton players and footballers could use “alternative provisions” in the borough.

She added: “Based on the fact 94 per cent of current customers at Abbey Sports Centre use the gym, attend a class, participate in a martial arts session or use the swimming pool, we are confident that the vast majority of our users will have access to much better quality facilities and equipment when the new centre opens.

“The three studios can take up to between 160 and 170 people between them so there will be no problem accommodating a big increase in Elderberries membership, if that were to happen.”

“Space for badminton and football will not be provided but there are plenty of alternative provisions for this in the borough.”

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