Labour demands answers over the future of the Queen Mother Sports Centre
Westminster Labour have triggered a ‘call-in’ process on Tuesday 29th March (a special hearing before the Council proceeds with a decision) over Council plans to spend £16.5m of taxpayers money to buy a large office block at 215 Vauxhall Bridge Road.
The official papers make clear that the Conservative-run Council believes ‘the purchase will be an important acquisition in allowing potential future redevelopment and / or expansion of the Queen Mother Sports Centre site and forms part of a wider ownership in the immediate vicinity’.
It argues ‘The property is a strategic acquisition. In terms of the investment hold value, the property provides a net initial yield of 3.5% (about half the current rate of inflation). The Council intends to refurbish and redevelop the QMSC in the future and this would enable greater value to be derived from this.
An inspection of the plans shows that incorporating this property into the wider site of the QMSC would not only enable better access for potential works, it would also significantly improve main road frontage on Vauxhall Bridge Road making development potential greater. The recommendation to purchase the property also negates the potential for any ransom situation should the property be bought by another party.
So the Council is proposing major step towards the wholesale redevelopment of the Queen Mother Sports Centre but without informing residents about its plans ahead of the Council Election on 5th May. Residents in Pimlico, Belgravia and
Vincent Square had thought they had stopped efforts by the council to build a large tower on the site, through a community campaign back in 2016-18 but it seems the Conservative Council has other ideas.
On the basis of the amount being spent on this office block it looks like the Council is planning to develop a big new building on the combined site, with a massive (and as-yet-unaccounted for) carbon impact from demolishing both the
current Queen Mother Sports Centre and this large office block at 215 Vauxhall Bridge Road.
Labour are demanding answers before the Council spends so much money so close to the election:
- What is the council planning for the Queen Mother Sport Centre and 215 Vauxhall Bridge Road site and when would they expect it to be built?
- What is the expected carbon impact of demolishing the Queen Mother Sports Centre and 215 Vauxhall Bridge Road?
- How tall and bulky will the proposed new development be and what proportion of any new homes will be for social rent or be genuinely affordable?
- Is the Council looking to use the model proposed in 2016-18 (and at the Moberly Centre) where the developer provides the new sports centre at ‘no cost’ to the council in return for raking in development profits from a residential or office block?
- Is the council still planning to increase the size of the sports centre to include an Olympic size pool?
- Why is this decision being taken now when the Council is about to go into the pre-election ‘purdah’ period?
Jason Williams (Labour Candidate for Pimlico South Ward) said “The Queen Mother Sports Centre is an important community asset which is used by a large number of local residents, schools and workers. I had hoped the high public outcry the last time the future of the site was threatened would have led them to rethink their approach but Westminster Conservatives seem determined to plough on without telling residents what they are planning”.
David Parton (Labour Candidate for Vincent Square) said “Local Residents need answers from the Conservatives about the future of the Queen Mother Sports Centre, explaining whether facilities would be improved, if they would remain affordable to access and for how long the centre would be closed for redevelopment”.
Cllr Adam Hug, Westminster Labour Group, said “Why are the Westminster Conservatives trying to bounce through spending millions of pounds so close to the election on a scheme that will have massive impact on the Council’s carbon emissions without proper scrutiny? They need to explain what new building they are planning, how large it will be and if new homes are to be built, how many of them will be affordable”.