One of the biggest names in British diving has spoken out against plans by Waltham Forest Council to get rid of a 5m diving board as part of a multi-million pound sports centre refurbishment.
Olympic medal winner Peter Waterfield learned to dive at Pool and Track in Chingford Road, Walthamstow, aged just nine.
He went on to win championships all over the country, gold at the Commonwealth Games and Britain’s first Olympic diving medal since 1960 in 2004 in Athens.
He went on to partner Tom Daley at the 2012 Olympics.
But the board he used to launch his career will not be replaced under the plans, which cost about £23million.
Mr Waterfield, 33, who grew up in Billet Road, specialises in 10m platform diving.
He has told the Guardian that without the 5m board, he may never have dived from a higher board.
Mr Waterfield said: “It’s a board that you have to get up to before the 10m boards. It is a stepping stone.
“Waltham Forest Pool and Track was where I started my career. Having that facility close to my home was brilliant.
“The 5m board is really important. Without it you would not get to the high boards.
“Smaller spring boards will not teach you how to become a platform diver.”
Mr Waterfield has now retired and works hard to keep young people interested in diving, something which he is asking Waltham Forest Council to do, too.
He said: “Diving as a sport has got a lot bigger, there is a lot more interest in it.
“You need a facility where people can come and try the sport.
“I would encourage them to put a 5m board back in. It is a massive stepping stone if you want to become a high board diver.
“It is great that there is the new facility down the road in Stratford but if you take away the 5m board in Waltham Forest then some children won’t get to try high board diving.
“What about the children who can’t afford to get there?”
The decision not to include the board in the new facility was criticised by parents of club members and a petition has more than 400 signatures.
There have also been claims that the club was not consulted on the decison.
A council spokesperson said: “While other councils have decided to close diving facilities completely to make savings, we have made a commitment to retaining them in the newly refurbished leisure centre.
"The decision not to include a 5m board within the new centre was not taken lightly and was based on cost, the use of each size of board and the fact that there is a 5m board just across the borough at the Olympic-standard London Aquatics Centre.
“We have met with the Waltham Forest Diving Club on numerous occasions and even changed our plans following those discussions, but have to refurbish the centre within a set budget unfortunately.”