The Gurnell Leisure Centre is a key community asset for Ealing. The Leisure Centre itself contains a large gym and an Olympic length swimming pool, and the surrounding park provides a skate park, a BMX track, as well as multiple outdoor sports pitches. All of this is owned by Ealing Council and situated in the Brent River Park, which is an ecologically valuable floodplain designated as Metropolitan Open Land. In 2015, Ealing Council announced that the Leisure Centre needed refurbishment or redevelopment, and that they would be looking at options.
After 5 years of negotiation, the option they have chosen is to allow a developer, misleadingly named EcoWorld International, to build a new luxury housing development on part of the Brent River Park, in exchange for which the developer will pay Ealing Council an undisclosed sum of money to help pay for the Leisure Centre. Or as Ealing's cabinet put it, "an alternative delivery approach has been developed whereby the Council would directly deliver part of the scheme (the Leisure Centre and 5 circa 200 units in Blocks A+B which are intended to be affordable), with the Developer delivering the remainder of the scheme (circa 400 residential units for open market sale as well as the basement serving both parts of the scheme). This would be a change from the baseline approach which had previously been developed where the Developer would build out the full scheme." This is quite simply an attempt to covertly sell off Metropolitan Open Land.
To make things worse by further attempting to dissimulate the nature of this deal, the developer has put forward the entire proposed Gurnell redevelopment as a single planning application, even though they have absolutely no intention of delivering either the affordable housing, or even the new Leisure Centre.
It is also worth keeping in mind that the council is very close to bankruptcy. Any project that it takes on now may well have to be postponed. With this deal, it is very likely that the luxury housing gets built quickly, but that the Leisure Centre takes well over a decade to materialise, if it doesn't get scrapped entirely. For an excellent example of how Ealing Council's flagship projects can be delayed, please see the Ealing Cinema debacle.
Christopher Wyatt - Liberal Democrat Candidate for the expected Ealing Broadway by-election: "This deal is shameful, and the fact that Ealing Labour have tried to conceal it shows that they know it, and that they have little respect for the residents of Ealing. If this goes ahead, it will jeopardise both valuable green space and important amenities in Ealing, with no guarantee that it will provide any of the much needed affordable housing."
We the undersigned call upon Ealing Council to reject the arrangement with EcoWorld International set out by cabinet in September 2019 that would allow them to build a luxury housing development on Metropolitan Open Land.
We will include your name and address when submitting the petition to Ealing Council.