Plans to rebuild the Lee Valley Ice Centre at nearly double the size have been given the go-ahead.

Waltham Forest Council’s planning committee approved the project on October 6 after the only councillor opposed was ejected from the meeting for arguing with the chair.

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), which manages the centre, says the current building is worn out after decades of use and would have to close if not rebuilt.

Opponents argued this was not a good enough reason to encroach on legally protected open space and that the new centre should instead be built at Eton Manor on Temple Mills Lane.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: An aerial view of the current centre and surrounding land (LVRPA)An aerial view of the current centre and surrounding land (LVRPA)

Committee chairman Cllr Jenny Gray (Lab, Leytonstone) said the new centre was “not anything to be afraid of” but “something to welcome”.

She said: “It does look like a more imaginatively designed building and not such an eyesore as the corrugated iron we have now.

“I would have preferred fewer car parking spaces but it’s been calculated as what’s required for a regional centre and officers have worked hard to reduce the parking spaces.”

Regarding the decision to build on protected land, she added: “It’s a pretty scrubby, desperate bit of Metropolitan Open Land, it’s not like it’s a beautiful green meadow.”

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More than 500 people wrote in to support the new centre, which will add an extra ice rink, as well as a cafe, gym and dance studio.

Among those who spoke in support of the plan at the meeting was former Olympic ice dancer Marika Humphreys-Baranova, who is employed by the centre.

She told the committee: “Our ice sports are being inhibited due to an undersized ice pad and the scheduling constraints this creates.”

She said training currently has to be scheduled before 6am or late at night to avoid clashing with general use, which is “too much for many budding skaters”.

Hackney mum Emily, whose 12-year-old daughter has skated at the centre for six years, said the area’s young figure skaters would “lose their chance at a career” if the centre moved.

She said: “There is a chronic shortage of sports spaces in (Hackney) and a particular shortage of spaces for sports that attract girls.

“There is a very strong community of skaters that has been there since the rink was founded. We have to hold that together, there are not many places like that in London.”

"Is this really what you want for our precious green space?"

Those against the plans, 119 of whom wrote to the council, argued the location was not appropriate for a larger building.

The centre is on Metropolitan Open Land, which receives the same protection as the green belt, and means there had to be “very special circumstances” to justify its expansion.

Cllr Alan Siggers (Con leader, Valley) said: “More attractive though it may be, it’s still a much larger building. The special circumstances case seems to be that we need a bigger ice rink.

“In August, we as a committee refused an application for a piece of Metropolitan Open Land that you could not even see, that had cars parked on it, why is that more relevant?”

Cllr Siggers was ejected from the meeting before he could vote after becoming agitated and asking: “Why is it every time I speak somebody has to talk absolute crap over what I say?”

Abigail Woodman, from Save Lea Marshes, said there is a risk the borough will sacrifice green space for a “white elephant” if the new centre does not pull in the earnings the regional park authority predicts.

She said: “It will look like a massive warehouse, especially from the marshes. Is this really what you want for our precious green space?”

Celia Coram said the regional park authority had ignored the benefits of building at Eton Manor, such as “better transport links” and the fact the old ice centre could stay open while the new one is built.

A spokesperson for the Essex Wharf Residents Association added residents on the nearby estate felt they had been “completely overlooked” in the planning process.

She told the committee: “There has been a bare minimum of meaningful communication and a mistrust of the LVRPA has arisen as a result. It’s people elsewhere who are the priority.”

Cllr Marie Pye (Lab, Leytonstone) supported the plans but said a car park of 155 spaces is too big and that the addition of a gym is unnecessary given the number already in the area.

She asked that there be a charge for the car park to deter casual use and that it no longer be used for “commercial purposes” like funfairs, which have been “detrimental to the area”.

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