Written by Cllr Peter Mason, Leader of Ealing Council
Labour-run Ealing Council is committed to delivering a state of the art leisure centre at
The previous planning proposal with EcoWorld is not going ahead, so we’re moving
forward with a fresh, community-led approach to returning an Olympic sized swimming
pool and more to Ealing.
The current building is well past its use-by-date, and that was before the pandemic,
during which Gurnell, like all leisure centres across the country, was mothballed.
We were able to temporarily use the dry side of the building as a COVID-19 testing
centre, but conservative, independent and professional estimates say that the extent of
repairs needed to the building will cost in the region of £18m, and it will take over two
years to get the building to a standard that it can re-open safely to the public. Even
then, the building would only have an extended shelf life of around 10 years.
Leisure Centres are huge engineering feats – keeping one half of the building warm for
swimmers, whilst keeping the other half cool for other sporting activity. They devour
energy, and have a huge carbon footprint.
Concrete, water and chemicals aren’t easy bedfellows…
Gurnell as it stands today, is unsafe, inefficient, and hugely expensive to maintain. If we
were to build a state of the art leisure centre today, it would, and will, be built to an
incredibly different, better standard.
So we are exploring all options, including the re-use, retrofit and repurposing of key
elements of the building. But any proposal for a Leisure Centre is likely to come at a
cost of £40-£50m pounds if we are going to meet the aspirations of swimmers and the
Getting a new leisure centre is important to us, and most important is ensuring that the
next generation of swimmers and athletes get a facility where they can learn all those
important life lessons on top of staying fit: competition, teamwork, endurance and
So that we can create that environment, we need our plans to reflect what the
community wants, and we also need to be able to pay for it. After a decade of cuts to
local government budgets, there are no easy answers to this really important question,
but we know how passionate Ealing people are in wanting to get this done.
So earlier this week, along with Cllr Shital Manro, Cabinet Member for Good Growth,
and Councillor Jasbir Anand, Cabinet Member for Thriving Communities, we launched
the Community Sounding Board.
We’ve written to a range of local community and residents organisations asking them to
form a new panel that will work with Ealing Council at every stage of the journey for the
new Gurnell, to work through some of these challenges. The sounding board will be an
external, critical friend. It will keep us on our toes but will be a meaningful place where
we can be open, transparent and honest about where we go from here. It’ll be led by an
independent chair and meet regularly to check our progress.
We remain committed to Gurnell, its future, and the future of Olympic swimming in
Ealing. We share the frustrations of everyone who wants to get the centre back open,
but we will also be honest about the challenges we face ahead of us.