Plans for a new leisure centre in Rainham moved a step closer on Wednesday night as Havering Council revealed it had decided on a location.

At a meeting of the borough's cabinet, on January 15, it was confirmed that the new centre for the south of the borough has found its home at the Rainham Recreation Ground.

The recreation area. just off Upminster Road South, was chosen after what the council has described as "a community conversation" around where the multi-million pound leisure centre should be located.

Rainham Recreation Ground is also well served by public transport, as there are several bus routes that run close to the Rainham recreation ground and stop nearby on The Broadway: the 165 from Romford, 103 from Havering-atte-Bower and 287 from Barking all stop within a short walk of the park.

The new leisure centre, which will boast a dance and spinning studio, 72-station fitness suite and six-lane swimming pool, will be of a modular design, meaning it can be built quickly.

Officers from Havering Council looked at a similar building - Becontree Heath Leisure Centre extension in Dagenham - when developing proposals.

A community conversation took place in November 2019 to help decide where the new centre should be located.

Havering Council identified two sites where the new centre could feasibly be built - a site on the Havering College grounds off New Road, and the recreation ground next to the Council's Viking Way car park.

The council believes that the best site to use is the recreation ground as the leisure centre can be built quicker and more economically there.

Residents also felt that this was the correct choice, with 66pc preferring it to the Havering College site, which would not have been available for development until 2021, at which point the recreation ground site could already be well under construction.

Whilst this site does mean building on a small amount of green space, Havering Council has stressed that it is committed to providing new green space elsewhere in Rainham, including re-locating the children's play area on the site.

Following the closure of the Chafford Sports Complex in June 2019, the council has been working with leisure provider SLM to find a site for a brand new facility. The next steps are to progress detailed designs and submit a planning application.

Councillor Damian White, leader of Havering Council, said: "I am proud we have found and agreed a new site for the Rainham Sports Centre, following through on our commitment to provide state-of-the-art facilities for residents in the south of the borough.

"We've taken on board residents' views and chosen a site that is ideally located, quick to progress and within close proximity to other shops and facilities.

"We can now move ahead with another new leisure centre in 2021 to fulfil our commitment to give everybody in Havering the opportunity to get active and live happy, healthy lives."

Rainham and Wennington ward councillor David Durant said that the Rainham Leisure Centre moving forward was "very good news for the south of the borough".

He told the Recorder: "It's great news, and I think it's in no small part due to the strong resident campaign that was led when Havering Council tried to close Chaffords Leisure Centre.

"We managed to keep that open for six months past the original projected closure date and also got a promise from the council that a new leisure centre would be built.

"It also helped that Cllr White stood in the general election as a candidate in Dagenham and Rainham and only narrowly lost, getting a big share of the vote, so he remained in post as council leader to honour that promise."

Cllr Durant also praised the value for money aspect of the modular design and accepted that the loss of a small area of green space in Rainham was "an unavoidable compromise" that was the only viable option to get the centre built.

The new leisure centre is due to open in 2021.