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Community cries foul on Finsbury plans announced during the Euros

The Finsbury Leisure Centre site, with four popular football pitches in one of the most densely populated wards in the UK, is threatened yet again with overdevelopment in Islington Council’s latest plans.

By Barbara Jacobson

A street with a new ower block and 7 storey building at the end and some older buildings on the side.
The view down Norman Street with the proposed new buildings; Ironmonger Row Baths and St Luke’s Gardens on either side. CGI image courtesy of Islington Council.

The Finsbury Leisure Centre site, with four popular football pitches in one of the most densely populated wards in the UK, is threatened yet again with overdevelopment in Islington Council’s latest plans. The site has repeatedly been the subject of plans for building over the past 30 years, and each time so far the surrounding community has succeeded in stopping them.

This time the plans include an 18-20 story tower block with 3 other buildings varying from 7 storeys. Four pitches, smaller than the current ones, will be placed on the roof of the proposed new leisure centre, which the community feel will make them inaccessible to local residents. While the Council have included a new Leisure Centre, a medical centre, and insist that the public spaces around the buildings will be ‘improved’, the community is also worried about the loss of mature trees and badly needed open space, especially since this has been lauded as conducive to good mental health. The Council says the new buildings will have 100 new council flats along with 98 private flats.

A CGI generated aerial view of the area affected by the proposals
A CGI preview of the contentious proposal for Finsbury Leisure Centre, showcasing a looming 20-storey tower block

Several large new private developments recently have been built on or around City Road, with less than the 50% ‘genuinely affordable’ target which Islington Council set out as policy in its Local Plan in 2019. In just one example, the huge 995 flat development 250 City Road, where private flats for sale start at £1,125,000, only 30% are called ‘affordable’ – a mix of shared ownership and flats to let administered by Peabody and Family Mosaic. We don’t know if these are ‘genuinely affordable’ by the Council’s definition.Residents are angry at this latest threat to the pitches after previous developments in the area should have been pressured to provide more housing for social rent. They also point out that LBI could increase its available housing by 25% if it dealt properly with non-occupation and subletting within the Council’s own stock.

A street with lots of trees on one side and no tall buildings.
Norman Street as it is now. Photo: Barbara Jacobson

The current plans have been brewing since 2017, with several changes the Council insist were the result of repeated consultations. What is on offer now, however, has been a surprise to local residents, especially the tower block. At a packed meeting in the Vibast Centre on Tuesday 9 July, participants emphasised these points:

– loss of leisure and sports space

– loss of open space

– loss of light and privacy

– negative impact on local businesses

– impact on mature trees and wider environment of increased pollution with increased population

– notice of these ‘feedback sessions’ was far too short since it will be the last before the council submits a planning application for the site.

The ‘feedback sessions’ were announced just after the General Election on 4 July, and end 18 July after three meetings starting this weekend. This time the Council has also hired a PR firm, London Communications, to handle it. Unsurprisingly they are using the current buzzword ‘transformation’ about the plans.

The feedback sessions will be held:

1/ Saturday 13 July, 10am-2pm at St Luke’s Community Centre, Garden Room EC1V 8AJ

2/ Tuesday 16 July, 3-7pm at Vibast Community Centre, Main Hall EC1V 9NH

3/ Thursday 18 July 1.30-5.30pm at Finsbury Leisure Centre, Studio 2, EC1V 3PU

See the plans online here

You can also give feedback by email: [email protected]

Local residents are urged to attend these meetings and make their opinions known.

To keep in touch with the community campaign to save the Finsbury Leisure Centre green space, sign up at

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