A retired chartered building consultant has expressed his concerns about Kingston Council’s plans to replace and potentially demolish a “much-loved” leisure centre in New Malden.

New Malden’s leisure complex, The Malden Centre, is part of an “exciting, transformative plan” to “reimagine” New Malden - Kingston Council has announced.

The leisure centre, located in Blagdon Road in New Malden, is currently home to a family-friendly swimming pool, gym, art class rooms, local community rooms, sports halls, and parking facilities.

According to the Maldens and Coombe Neighbourhood Committee report, the regeneration plan - known as the Cocks Crescent project - began in February 2020 and sets out a plan to replace the current Malden Centre with a brand new leisure centre.

The report says the project will benefit the community by planning and providing a new community leisure facility, building new homes – including “affordable” homes, developing a new public town square, and upgrading the Blagdon Road Multi Storey car park.

Julian McCarthy, a retired chartered engineer, and neighbour to the centre, has raised his concerns to the Neighbourhood Committee and councillors across New Malden.

Julian believes the Council should seek a second and third opinion on the current plans, as he says the cost of refurbishment is “far in excess of what should be necessary”.

Surrey Comet: images: Julian McCarthy images: Julian McCarthy

Julian told the Surrey Comet: “Having been a chartered building services consultant for more than 40 years and involved with refurbishing buildings, I have sought to alert the Council that the information is possibly incorrect and should, in my opinion, be checked by an independent body.

“A councillor has advised me that the quoted cost for refurbishment is around £13 million, with the centre potentially shutting down for 18 to 24 months.

“I have advised that, in my experience, one would phase any refurbishment and have partial closures as opposed to reporting wholesale closure.

“But, in order to avoid the closure, the Council is set on constructing a new building - with new housing - alongside, at a cost of £24million pounds or so.

“The Council is publicising their concerns regarding climate change and the environment and yet is consigning a perfectly good, structurally sound 35-year-old building to land fill and will likely create carbon emissions for both demolition and construction.”

On Tuesday (March 22), Kingston Council announced its ambition for the new centre, and says the “much-loved” Malden Centre is reaching the end of its operational lifespan.

Surrey Comet: The Malden Centre (images: Google street view)The Malden Centre (images: Google street view)

A spokesperson for Kingston Council said: “By building this new leisure centre alongside the current Malden Centre, we will ensure that residents will have uninterrupted access to a swimming pool and leisure centre.

“Engaging with communities has formed a key part in the development of this project, and as we move forward there will be further engagement with residents to shape the new facility.

“The new leisure centre is just one part of an exciting, transformative plan to reimagine New Malden - one of the cornerstones of Kingston Council’s vision for heritage-led regeneration across the borough.

“Currently, despite its central position, the Cocks Crescent area around the Malden Centre is underutilised, with large amounts of vacant public land.”.

Kingston Council has said the Cocks Crescent project will be transformed into a new hub for New Malden residents, with almost 3,500 square metres of new commercial space.

“The plans will turbo-charge the town’s economy, with over 300 much-needed homes”, Kingston Council added.

Despite the Council’s proposals, Julian says the public have been presented with “potentially moulded facts and figures, which may sway residents to choose the new building, rather than refurbing the existing facility”.

The decision to proceed to the next stage of the project will be taking at Corporate and Resources Committee this Thursday (March 24).

Last week, Julian attended the neighbourhood committee meeting and requested “due diligence”, to ensure two opinions are checked before any decision is undertaken next week.

Surrey Comet: images: Julian McCarthyimages: Julian McCarthy

Julian said: “At the meeting I separately reminded the Council's environmental emergency plan of reduce, re-use and recycle to avoid landfill.

“This applies as much to large buildings as it does to household waste and they shouldn’t be consigning a 35-year-old building to land fill.

“As for the community, one of the councillors questioned the officer as to whether the new leisure centre would still have the individual community rooms and pottery studio which service the residents of the borough.

“The officer presenting said he couldn’t confirm, which is a worrying response and supports the basis that the community is in grave risk of losing valuable facilities.

“It seems like there is an agenda to rush through the plans before the May elections - it is not in the best interests of the environment, or the residents of the borough.”

Julian says his main concern is that the community’s interest is not “protected” and is asking councillors to challenge the overall plans and costs behind the project.

“I feel like the little boy in the Emperor's New Clothes” Julian added, as he says that the Crocks Crescent project merely doesn’t “feel right”.