It’s getting hot in here! Conversations in Gurnell Leisure Centre’s Sauna, Greenford

One article for issue #4 of WorkersWildWest - out soon! Ealing Council wants to sell off the land, the leisure centre will be demolished and rebuild together with luxury flats in 2019 - at least according to their plan. We hope local people will try to keep the centre open...

Submitted by AngryWorkersWorld on June 8, 2016

Strangers hardly ever speak to strangers and because in London everyone is a stranger, nobody ever speaks to no one! People stare into their mobile phones on the tube or sweat in awkward silences in the waiting room of their GP or at the job centre. But if you know where to look, there are places where people talk freely - little islands of random chats between people who often haven’t seen each other before…

One such island is the sauna in Gurnell Leisure Centre. Me and my friends like to go there after a week in the chill, going nuts on the assembly line, or after pushing brooms in the drizzly Perivale rain. Most people there are working people from around Greenford, Ealing and around the world. People talk about life, about politics. Older geezers tell young guys from Poland how they arrived from Jamaica in the 1970s to work in industrial laundries in Acton or for Royal Mail. Gujarati ladies talk about the fact that the picking at the H&M warehouse in Wembley aggravates their arthritis and exchange experiences about natural remedies from Kenya. We discussed the situation of mining workers near the frontline in Ukraine with a Ukrainian forklift driver and his Bulgarian friend. We discussed the NHS being sold off and how much worse the situation is in America where one guy had lived for a while, that if you get sick there, you end up bankrupt.

We might disagree about putting too much mint-oil on the stove (not allowed!), but most of us agree on some basics: the politicians cannot be trusted, the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer and something has to been done. There are not many of these places for these types of conversations. Maybe you have to be in a semi-dark room for it, with a dozen of so half-naked sweating people? In any case, we have to create more of them and defend them: Ealing council has agreed to sell the leisure centre land to a real estate developer. The leisure centre will be closed and demolished in 2017. The real estate developer has promised to build a new one (together with unaffordable flats), but who knows if that will actually happen. We should defend the leisure centre as long as it exists!




Some of you may have already heard that the council is planning a massive redevelopment of Gurnell Leisure Centre. They want to hand over OUR public land to a private property developer so that they can build luxury flats to finance a state-of-the-art leisure centre. A new leisure centre sounds great. The bad news for us is that Gurnell will close in April 2017, be knocked down and not re-open (supposedly) until January 2019.

Ealing councillors say that the roof will cost £10 million to repair in the short-term, so it makes financial sense to knock it all down and start again. However we have the following concerns:

* The council has already sunk £1.34m into this Gurnell redevelopment project before even asking us what we think about it. This consultation process seems to have come quite late in the day which is why we need to get involved now to get the assurances we need that this development will benefit US, the local residents of Ealing, and not just greedy property developers.
* Ealing Council intends to allow developers to build luxury housing on the Gurnell Leisure Centre site in return for a contribution towards the cost of improving the swimming pool. This contribution is welcome, but it is wrong to allow development on public land which waives the usual requirement for at least 25% of new housing to be to be ‘affordable’/social stock, while we are so desperate for social and affordable housing in the area. This must no be allowed to happen.
* While a state of the art leisure centre sounds brilliant, we would like assurances that it will be accessible to local people. Admission prices should remain the same so it doesn’t just become a place for those that can afford it.

And where are we supposed to go in the meantime?!

The next public meetings where the Council will try and push ahead with this is are on:

9th June and 14th July
Where? Hathaway Primary School, Hathaway Gardens. Ealing. W13 0DH.
When? 6.30pm.

Let’s go and voice our concerns and press for some answers.

The final plans for the new facility will not be submitted to planning until September 2016 and the planning approval process will take approximately 6 months. So we still have time to make sure our voices are heard!



7 years 8 months ago

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Submitted by AngryWorkersWorld on June 15, 2016

Gurnell Leisure centre development meeting
June 2016

The 'public consultation' meeting was a presentation from council bods about the leisure centre - with assurances that tricky questions about housing would be given more attention at the next meeting in July. However, people did try and raise the housing issue. The answers to the questions about the validity of building market-rate (deemed 'affordable') flats rather than much-needed social housing was that:

- people want good quality private rented accommodation, with landlords that are not unscrupulous (although the council has absolutely no way to control how the landlords will treat their tenants)
- the council are already building social housing in ealing
- without the private money the refurbishment of the leisure centre will be impossible.

There has been a precedent in Ealing of these kind of development deals (e.g. Northolt leisure centre) which have apparently seen numbers of users increase. The council bods say that Gurnell needs major redevelopment because numbers are going down (although this is only according to them) and the cost to just repair the roof would not make financial sense.

The fact is that over 3000 local school kids use the pool for swimming lessons every week and shutting it down for 2 years would mean a major diversion for lots of people. They framed the deal as having to be done this way or the leisure centre completely shuts down. But there was never any discussion about alternative proposals. A few people mentioned the fact that it might be possible to build a new centre while keeping the existing one functioning in the meantime but this was not deemed viable by the council.

There was no convincing answer to the question of why the finances of this deal were not publicly available nor any guarantees that the admission prices would stay the same after the state-of-the-art refit, or that stipulations made in the deal between the council and the developer (through a third party organisation) would be honoured should the third party organisation go bankrupt.

The council will put in £12 million for this deal, Wilmot Dixon (property developer) will put in the rest (around £25 million).

The farce of local 'representational' politics was fully on display at this meeting. As long as your question focused on specific leisure centre 'user' concerns, you were dealt with fine. If your concerns were focused on the finer details of the deal, questions around accountability, the role of the people of Ealing in the decision-making process, and the transfer of land from public into private land, the Q&A format was obviously weighted heavily in favour of the council bureaucrats who monopolised the time to put across their propaganda and try and belittle dissenting voices.


7 years 8 months ago

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Submitted by Spikymike on June 16, 2016

This is a useful intervention by the AWW people into the attempts of their local council to shut down a valued local community facility and is a local example of the long term drift from the post-war consensus on public housing policy towards increased pressure on working class housing security and affordability and the farce of both representational politics and the fraud of so-called 'affordable' housing provision. Of course the local Council's case in response to questions and protests does make some capitalist sense but exposing how that conflicts with peoples needs in a practical way needs repeating and the drift at least held back where we can.
Not recommending the politics of this site which go no further than complaining in most cases but it regularly exposes this drift in another location in the practice and content of the local Council and corporate partnership regeneration schemes. One example here but there is much more on the same site: