So why should we save the current Rec?
The Rec opened less than 30 years ago in 1985, providing residents with a fantastic new and long-awaited leisure facility. Since then, a great deal of public money has been invested in the centre, including a £3m refurbishment which was completed in 2007 and provided updated changing rooms and improved facilities.
The Rec is located in the heart of Brixton within easy reach of residents. A recent survey of Rec users showed that an overwhelming majority of people were satisfied with the facilities.
The Rec was last under threat in 2008 when the former Tory/Lib Dem administration were in charge of Lambeth Council. The Labour group vigorously opposed their plans and, when they regained control of the council, wrote the original Future Brixton Masterplan which suggested that the Rec would be “refurbished and opened up as a major community resource.” Why has the Labour group now changed its position?
Is the Rec popular with local people?
Yes, very much so. After the refurbishment in 2007 monthly visitor numbers jumped from around 14,000 to 45,000, a huge increase. The latest figures for September 2012 showed that over 60,000 people visited the Rec, rightly justifying the council’s description of the centre as “much loved.” Many in the black community in Brixton are particularly proud of the Rec and what it symbolises, with the centre offering a place where all parts of the community can meet and mix in a welcoming environment.
Lambeth Council say in the Brixton planning document that the centre is inaccessible and has a dark, unwelcoming entrance ramp…
It is true that some users find the entrance ramp dark and unwelcoming; however this in itself is not a reason for replacing the centre. Improved lighting and paintwork could drastically improve this entrance at very little cost. Removing the boards on the sports hall windows would immediately allow light to flow onto the ramp. The external steps to the building could be covered. Users are already coming up with great low cost ideas to improve accessibility – check the Urban75 discussion for more details.
The council says that the Rec is expensive to maintain and that costs will increase in future…
At the time of writing the council has not provided any figures to support this claim. Users are trying to obtain this information. In fact, Councillor Lib Peck, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, recently said at a meeting that it was not the case that the Rec was economically unviable. The original Brixton Masterplan suggested retaining the Rec and never even raised costs as an issue. It is unclear how much a new leisure centre would cost to build, how long it would take or what the disruption to local businesses and residents would be.
The council claim that the interior space is not efficiently used…
The Rec has a central atrium which provides light, space and an overall feeling of openness. This was the architect’s intention when designing the building and provides for a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. There is ample space in the centre for a wide range of activities, including swimming, football, squash, indoor bowls, basketball, badminton, yoga, dancing, children’s play, a gym, a steam room & sauna, a cafe and much more. This great variety of facilities should be protected. A local architect and user of the Rec has written a great piece on the high quality design of the Rec building.
There’s a suggestion the Rec could be improved and rebuilt elsewhere, e.g. on the site of the ice rink/former Pope’s Road car park….
It’s hard to see how the current Rec could be improved, given its fantastic range of facilities and high quality design and architecture. The site of the Ice Rink and former multi-story car park is far too small to rehouse the Rec – as you can see from this map – and in any case, this site was supposed to offer parking for traders and shoppers once the ice rink moves back to Streatham. Users are concerned that rebuilding the Rec elsewhere could lead to an unacceptable loss of space and facilities.