Battersea Sports Centre looks set to close in order to make way for much-needed affordable housing.

The council wants to build 85 low cost homes in Hope Street - the site of Battersea Sports Centre - which is next to one of the most deprived areas of the borough, the Winstanley estate.

Campaign group Wandsworth Against Cuts criticised the latest announcement, claiming the council will stop at nothing to gentrify the borough.

Wandsworth Council described the centre as “ageing and underused” and said current users and clubs could use alternative services in the area such as Wandle Rec, Battersea Park and Latchmere leisure centre.

Despite this claim, the council also boasts on its own website how the Battersea centre has a recently refurbished studio or dojo, a new multi-use games area including a 3G astroturf five-a-side football pitch and a new room for hire.

The council even launched a big public health drive earlier in the year offering hundreds of people on the Winstanley and York Road estates free gym membership at the leisure centre, with leader Ravi Govindia saying the council wanted to “transform their lives”.

The sports centre also has an indoor sports hall, outdoor courts and a fully-equipped air-conditioned gym.

Studies from 2012/13 show, within Wandsworth, 9.8 per cent of children at reception age were obese. Levels doubled to 20.2 per cent for year 6 children.

A statement from the council said it was exploring the possibility of a new all-weather sports pitch in Battersea, with talks already under way with Sport England about a possible funding bid.

The proposals, which will be discussed in the new year, include a mix of properties and offered for rent to local people with links to the borough.

A spokesman for Wandsworth Against Cuts said: “A tactic the council have found useful in the past is to reduce the budget of a public service for closure or privatising, then demonise it for under-performing, or for the fact that fewer people then use it.

“They then offer alternatives as a solution, which are either closure or privatisation with payment at the point of use - which was originally free. This well-tried plan now seems to be the case with the Battersea Sports Centre.

“The council’s cover story for this is their plan to build new low-cost homes. However, the very name affordable homes is simply a public relations term. They may well be cheaper in comparison to the nearby luxury flats, but they’re still financially beyond most of the current local residents.”

Wandsworth Times:

Councillor Paul Ellis, housing spokesman, said: “Utilising this site in Battersea to provide more low cost homes for rent would ensure that we can offer more support to families who have been made homeless through no fault of their own and others who are currently living in cramped or unsuitable accommodation.”

More than 1,600 affordable homes are expected to be built in the borough in the next four years.

Councillor Jonathan Cook, community services spokesman, added: “The sports centre has seen user numbers fall recently and it is becoming increasingly uneconomic. Using the site for new low cost housing would make good sense, especially as there is a wide range of other and better sports facilities in the area.”

The cuts were first revealed in a document that was leaked to the Wandsworth Guardian a few months ago.

Wandsworth Times:

Will Martindale, Battersea’s Labour MP candidate, has announced he plans to campaign against the closure. He said: "It is disappointing that Wandsworth Council tried to sneak out this bad news while families are celebrating Christmas.

"Its loss would be widely felt. The outdoor football pitch is often used by local teenagers and young adults, who tell me they could not afford the higher commercial rates charged at Battersea Park.

"The Kinghan Report into the Clapham Junction riots recommended the council should focus on the provision of sports facilities for young people. Lots of local people have told me they want more sports facilities, not less. I hope the council reconsiders."

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