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Opinion: Ealing Lib Dems challenge Ealing Council over Gurnell

Ealing Liberal Democrats challenge Labour-run Ealing Council over Gurnell

“Liberal Democrats believe the leisure centre should be opened as priority, supported by a higher proportion of affordable housing (if housing is necessary) and Ealing Council should demonstrate how it is protecting the environment on this site.

“At Ealing Council’s Overview and Scrutiny meeting (16 March 2023), the Liberal Democrats continued to challenge the Labour administration on their decision making around the redevelopment of the Gurnell Leisure Centre, closed for several years now. Liberal Democrat Councillor Connie Hersch, Opposition Spokesperson for Policing & Communities ‘called in’ the decision for review at a special meeting and asked questions of the Labour administration about their change in approach on Gurnell. Noting that the last controversial Gurnell planning submission was voted down!

“Councillor Connie Hersch, Liberal Democrat Opposition Spokesperson for Policing & Communities said: “Liberal Democrats say that the Council set up a ‘Sounding Board’ of residents but has limited the views expressed there. The single largest concern relates to Labour’s inclusion of residential development within the scheme and the claim by the Council, refuted by some on the Sounding Board, that this is necessary to be able to support the costs of replacing the leisure centre. The ‘Sounding Board’ has concerns about the ‘impact of any development on Metropolitan Open Land inclusive of ecological impact and development in the flood plain’.”

“Labour are seeking additional buildings footprint on MOL (London’s Green Belt) and it should be clear how it can protect the environment on this precious piece of green belt type land. Instead, they seem to have designs on concreting over the green pearls strung across the borough as building plots for the future with little thought being given to the longer-term health benefits of nature.

“The apparent change in approach by the Labour administration follows the uproar of local residents and continuing challenge by the Liberal Democrats shows that the Council is recognising that their previous approach to house building was too aggressive.

“Whilst the public message appears to be for Labour to build fewer housing units (the previous plan was for 600 units) a final decision has not been made and Liberal Democrats remain concerned that the majority of the units will be available on the open market for external investors. We believe at least half of any units should be affordable housing, if they are required at all.

“Liberal Democrats who have been listening to residents, believe that the focus should be on completion of the swimming pool first as a priority. It has been closed for at least three years despite rising community demand for access to swimming facilities. Gurnell was opened as a state of the art centre in 1981 and replaced three swimming baths located behind the old town hall in the centre of Ealing Broadway, which now seems earmarked only for tall towers.

“Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed, sitting on the Overview & Scrutiny Committee, for the meeting, said: “Liberal Democrats have called for prioritisation of the leisure centre delivery, due to years of delay, to be followed by a shift of emphasis for any units to be mostly allocated to affordable housing and a clear route map to outline and address loss of green belt type land across the borough.”

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