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My grandfather Sir Michael Sobell would be appalled by trampoline park plan

25 August, 2017

Sir Michael Sobell ‘would be appalled’

• AS the granddaughter of Sir Michael Sobell, I add my voice to the campaign to save the Sobell Leisure Centre from being converted into a trampoline park.

My grandfather, having made his fortune through radio receivers and television sets, established a charitable foundation in 1977. Among other projects, he provided funds for the Michael Sobell Sports Centre (later to be called the Sobell Leisure Centre) to provide first-class sporting facilities within Islington.

His vision was that everyone should have access to affordable sporting facilities. This centre would become a beacon of sporting excellence and attract members and users of its facilities, including Olympic athletes, from far and wide.

My grandfather would be appalled that people’s access to these facilities would be hugely limited in favour of a recreational attraction with games areas including a “wipe-out trampoline”, a “foam pit” (for jumping into), a “dodgeball” area (throwing balls at each other), “slam dunk” basketball (bouncing up to a basketball net), a “battle beam” (jousting with padded lances on a beam to knock your opponent into a foam pit), balancing on a “slackline” (a webbing tightrope) and climbing a “fidget ladder” (a rope ladder).

All indoor football facilities, including male and female, junior and adult sessions, will be ended completely, even though these have been core to the centre since its opening more than 40 years ago by the Duke of Edinburgh.

Indoor football at the centre has brought joy to many youngsters and helped so many to develop a healthy exercise habit that has benefited them throughout their lives.

Since the centre’s opening, successive generations of Islington youngsters have played at Sobell, benefiting from this taking place in a safe environment unaffected by adverse weather conditions. Many who began using the centre when it opened are still regular customers – a testament to its enduring value to the community. Such facilities are so rare in London.

Sobell Centre, like all others in Islington, is now managed by GLL/Better, which has little previous sports-provision experience in Islington. The project brief it put to the council executive was approved with no public consultation.

Campaigners are rightly calling for the project to be halted and for the council and GLL/Better to consult residents and customers of the Sobell. On behalf of the Sobell Foundation Trustees, I endorse their request and urge the council to rethink.

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