Council flexes its muscles to secure new leisure centre
- Credit: Archant
The first bricks of Romford’s long-awaited leisure centre could be laid within eight months after Havering Council won its battle with troubled supermarket chain Morrisons.
The end of the four-year saga appears to be imminent after Morrisons signed a contract agreeing to complete a landswap, which will allow the building of the four-storey centre, in Western Road, to begin.
Council leader, Cllr Roger Ramsey, said: “Morrisons’ lack of progress and resistance to start demolition on the Western Road site has been a subject of much frustration for all of us here today, and our residents, who have been waiting a long time for a pool and ice rink in Romford.
“If, for any reason, Morrisons breaches the terms of this contract, we will not hesitate in taking the company to court and will consider a compulsory purchase order of the site.”
The exchange of the Western Road site with the former home of Romford Ice Rink, in Rom Valley Way, must be completed by April 26.
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The new leisure centre will include an eight lane, 25m swimming pool and an ice rink.
It will also have a second pool for beginners, sauna and steam rooms, health and fitness studio, gym, dance studio and a café.
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It’s good news for London Raiders ice hockey team, which has been based in Lea Valley since the town’s former rink closed in 2013.
John Scott, chief executive of the Fans Management Committee, said the team hopes to return home for the 2018-2019 season.
He said there had been disappointment the team would not make a much advertised and discussed move to Romford for the 2017-2018 season, but stressed there was “no place like home” and they were looking forward the move.
Cllr Ramsey added: “This has been a long time coming and it’s positive news that takes us a step closer to securing state-of-the-art sporting facilities for the borough.
“I’d like to thank ice skaters and hockey players for their patience and support. I hope this news will reassure residents that we’re doing everything we can to get on site and deliver a leisure centre as soon as we can.”
Many had feared the troubled supermarket chain, which announced the closure of 11 stores and 140 convenience shops last week, would pull out of the agreement.
In June a spokesman said it had appointed property agents to “fully explore all possibilities” .
In response, cabinet member for culture and community engagement, Cllr Melvin Wallace, said the authority was “determined” to hold Morrisons to its contractual agreements.