Applause erupted from the public gallery at the town hall last night as controversial plans for a £23m leisure facility in the borough were rejected by Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee.
Tensions ran high at the discussion about the all new Pool and Track being designed for the site in Chingford Road, Walthamstow.
Dozens of divers and their families came out to show their anger about high board facilities being removed from plans for the new build.
Justin Jardin, social director at GLL spoke about the state of the art facility that will be built in the borough with spa facilities, an extreme sports area and eight lane 25m pool.
“We want to get more people more active more often,” he said.
“This will be a spectacular, first class leisure facility – it will be one of a kind.”
His speech was met with jeers from the crowd who called for him to answer why they were removing one sporting activity completely – but adding treatment room and a spa.
Impassioned speeches were given by parents and councillors who said they ‘could not understand’ why there had been no consultation and spoke of their frustration at being told to ‘go to Newham’.
Rachel Wedderburn’s daughter Sophia has been diving for over a year.
She said: “My daughter was inspired by Tom Daley and Pete Waterfield at the Olympics – she was excited to go to the Aquatic Centre. The reality was disappointing.
“It is not practical and it is a very long journey after school. We want sports in our borough–not spas.”
Councillor Roy Berg from Endlebury Ward said: “You are not giving the people what they want.
“We are one of the few boroughs in London that has a 5m diving board and now you want to take it away.
“Two years ago this borough was proud of the Olympics and what we did and we encouraged our children – and now you want to deprive them of facilities.”
Leader of the Conservative Party in the borough, Matt Davies accused developers of having a ‘blind spot’- adding that he had not been contacted so many times since the dog track was debated.
He urged developers to re-design the facility.
Ian Capes, a former chairman of Waltham Forest Diving Club showed pictures children lining up to use the 5m board during a public session, questioning the veracity of the information submitted to committee which implied it was under-utilised.
Councillor Jenny Gray antagonised the crowd when she said that it was only one sport being left out and would vote it through so as not to delay the build process.
Committee chairman Pete Barnett was also in favour.
However, Alan Siggers questioned the quality of the design, adding that since diving and swimming facilities were not separated he had concerns over safety.
“You know that phrase accident waiting to happen,” he said.
“Well this is it.”
Cllr Siggers also asked multiple times for GLL to explain how much a 5m diving board costs - which they could not say.
Councillor Karen Bellamy from Higham Hill ward told the council that she drove to Newham to see how far away the Aquatic Centre was and it took her ‘over an hour’.
Cllr Bellamy refused to vote it through because of loss of amenity but added that there was ‘no way’ that many constituents would be able to go to Newham because it is costly and time consuming.
The plans were rejected by three in favour over two.
Social enterprise and charity GLL can now appeal the decision.