THE COUNCIL has admitted eyeing up North Weald as a site for a new leisure centre in response to a campaign.

On April 20 a 1,500 signature strong petition calling for a sports centre to be kept in Epping town will be handed to the council.

It follows Epping Forest District Council's decision to demolish Epping Sports Centre and build houses in its place, as outlined in the Local Plan.

This would leave Epping residents needing to travel to Ongar, Loughton or Waltham Abbey to get their sporting fix.

Christine Buckley, one of the campaigners behind the petition, said: "We would like the council to reconsider relocation. We are not asking them not to build houses.

"We would like to see an investment. It should be in Epping so people can walk to it."

Fellow campaigner and sports centre user Mary Mott explained how moving the centre out of the town could lead to around 30,000 extra car journeys a month, based on centre visit figures for 2016.

While EFDC did not comment on whether a replacement centre in Epping was being considered, a new facility in North Weald has been discussed.

A spokesperson said: "A brand new Leisure Centre is under construction in Waltham Abbey. We recently completed improvements at Ongar and are making major improvements at Loughton.

"In the longer term we have aspirations to build another brand new centre at a better location for Epping. We are thinking about North Weald as a potential location with more parking but decisions are a long way off and other locations may also emerge."

In the short term, the spokesperson said Epping Sports Centre 'isn't going anywhere'.

They added: "In partnership with Places for People, we have just completed a £1million update with improvements to the gym and brand new fitness spaces replacing some of the old squash courts.

"Fitness and good mental health are key components of our residents’ health and wellbeing. Thanks to good management and financial strength, we are one of the few councils able to invest strategically in new sports and leisure facilities.

"Consultation will be a key part of our plans and we will be sure to listen to our residents very carefully before decisions are made."