Waltham Forest Council agrees grant to safeguard Lee Valley Ice Centre rebuilding project

Waltham Forest Council’s leadership has agreed to pay £1 million towards the cost of rebuilding the Lee Valley Ice Centre in Leyton to prevent the project from failing.

The Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), which owns the ice rink and the land, will receive a grant of £200,000 a year for the next five years, the council’s cabinet decided on Tuesday May 4.

Plans to rebuild and nearly double the size of the centre were approved by the planning committee last October, despite concerns about the encroachment onto “precious green space”.

Now, a report prepared for the cabinet reveals, the LVRPA is “struggling to cover” the estimated £30 to 40 million cost of construction, “which could put the entire project in jeopardy”.

LVPRA chief executive Shaun Dawson previously told the planning committee that the current centre is “reaching the end of its operational life” after “36 years of non-stop use”.

He said: “Essential complex equipment is failing and it’s not economical to keep repairing it. We must meet the increasing demand whilst also respecting the site’s location.”

The new building, which the LVRPA hopes to complete by autumn next year, is set to include an additional ice rink, a gym and a cafe.

According to a study conducted by the council in February 2019, it is expected to attract 557,000 visits a year, double the number received by the current centre.

In return for its investment, the council expects the LVRPA to run programmes for crime prevention, health, biodiversity awareness, job training and more for the borough’s residents.

However, those opposed to the rebuild fear the new centre will end up “a white elephant” if it does not pull in the anticipated earnings.

Last October, Abigail Woodman from Save Lea Marshes told the planning committee the centre will “look like a massive warehouse”, asking: “Is this really what you want for our precious green space?”

Many of those opposing the plans think the new centre should instead be built at Eton Manor, which they claim has “better transport links” and would allow the old centre to stay open during construction.

The report prepared for the cabinet noted that officers had considered loaning the money to LVRPA, as opposed to a grant, but decided against this option.

Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter