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Angry east London residents organise against threat to leisure centre
Claire Laker-Mansfield, Hackney Socialist Party
On 23 October, 50 local residents packed out an angry meeting in Hoxton, east London, to organise against the threatened closure of the area's leisure centre.
The plans, which have been laid out by Hackney's Labour mayor and council, include the demolition of the existing Britannia Leisure Centre, with its site then used to build three 24-storey tower blocks containing 400 luxury flats, as well as an academy secondary school run by the private City of London Academies Trust.
Verbally, the mayor and councillors have said that they plan to replace the existing leisure centre with a new one, built on an area currently occupied by tennis courts on the nearby Shoreditch Park.
But there have been no guarantees given as to either the size or scope (in terms of facilities) of this new centre, with many residents expressing the view that it may not even be built.
Local people at the meeting expressed fury at the plans - which are correctly understood in a wider context of gentrification, the privatisation of public land and the destruction of council run services.
There was particular disgust that - despite Jeremy Corbyn's speech at his party's conference about the need for democratic ballots to stop so-called 'regeneration' projects being used as a smokescreen for gentrification and social cleansing - this is being pushed through by a right-wing Labour mayor using executive powers.
So far, the plans have not even been taken to a full meeting of the council - let alone a ballot of affected local residents and centre users.
There was also disgust at the failure of a single Labour councillor to attend the meeting, with plans to send specific invites and build pressure for them to attend a future one.
The Socialist Party will be fully participating in this campaign - raising the demand that Labour councillors must stand up to these outrageous plans.
Should they refuse, local residents could also consider directly challenging them in the upcoming council elections in May 2018.
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