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Squash courts "may not be possible" at new Elephant leisure centre

Southwark Council leader Peter John says it "may not be possible" to include new squash courts to replace the existing facilities when Elephant & Castle Leisure Centre is rebuilt - even though a ward councillor says some funding has already been found.

Cathedrals ward councillor Geoffrey Thornton tabled a question to council leader Peter John at this week's council assembly meeting.

"It may not be possible to provide a squash court at the Elephant and Castle, but we continue to look for ways that this may be possible," said Cllr John in a written answer.

Cllr Thornton has been campaigning since last year for the retention of the borough's only public squash courts when the leisure centre is redeveloped to include a new swimming pool.

"It is, in my view, a retrograde step to be considering offering fewer sporting facilities than have historically been available at this transport hub of south London, particularly at a time when thousands of new residents are expected to move into the area," says Cllr Thornton.

"However, the decision to finance much of the new centre by disposing of part of the site for residential development leaves a reduced footprint available for any new leisure centre.

"In view of this, it will be more important than ever to ensure that all future plans achieve the best possible use of space.

"I am remain concerned that non-sporting options (e.g. cafe & crèche) – which could easily be accommodated on a mezzanine, basement or terrace level – appear to have been given preference over the much-needed space for sporting facilities.

"Some funding has already been earmarked for the provision of new squash courts at the Elephant, and England Squash & Racketball (the national governing body) are ready to start a grassroots youth programme.

"All that's lacking is a commitment from the local council leader and cabinet to find the necessary space. It would be a huge disappointment if the only public squash courts in the borough were lost for lack of will or imagination on their part."

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