I AM delighted to say planning permission for a new, modern leisure and community centre on the site of the old Kingfisher building has now been granted. This is a key milestone in our efforts to make Kingston an even more wonderful place to live, work and visit.

This project is a top priority for the council and work to demolish the old, out-of-date and unsafe Kingfisher building will start this summer as we prepare the site for the new facility.

Surrey Comet: Kingston sculpture trail - party animalKingston sculpture trail - party animal

We have released a ‘fly-through’ of the new complex to give you an idea of the fantastic facilities that will be available in this state-of-the-art leisure centre – everything from new swimming pools, rooftop football and squash facilities to a climbing wall, cafes and flexible community spaces.

This scheme is a major part of the council’s ‘Transform Kingston’ programme and sits at the heart of our heritage-led regeneration of the town centre. It will connect the new facility much more effectively with the neighbouring historic library and museum, with the aim of attracting more residents and visitors to come and experience Kingston’s unique history and culture.

Kingston Council: Setting out our priorities

The new leisure and community centre will, of course, provide modern, inclusive and disabled-friendly facilities fit for the 21st century so everyone has the chance to live happy, healthier lives. But, as we continue to recover from the experience of the pandemic, it will also help regenerate and revitalise Kingston’s town centre at a time when the borough needs it most. Culture is so important to this regeneration and the council is determined to create a connection between the borough’s historic past and its exciting future. Everyone has different interests and passions and this project promises to do an amazing job of bringing so many of them together in one very special place.

Surrey Comet: View of new leisure centreView of new leisure centre

While we work hard to diversify our town centres and make them places people want to visit for the leisure and entertainment on offer as much as the shopping, the borough’s history and culture is playing a huge part.

Not only has the council, in collaboration with Kingston University, Kingston First and the Canbury Community Trust, featured a very popular sculpture trail but Surbiton is now also getting its own art trail. This new initiative is currently working on a number of public art projects to improve the look and feel along a pathway in Surbiton which often suffers from fly-tipping, anti-social behaviour and graffiti.

Then there is the Kingston Korea Harvest Festival and Tamil Harvest Festival, celebrating the wonderfully rich culture of our Korean and Tamil communities in and around New Malden. And, after a two-year absence due to the devastating impact of Covid-19 on community events, the Kingston Carnival is expected to return at the end of the summer.

Surrey Comet: New leisure centre poolNew leisure centre pool

There is little doubt that one of the most wonderful things about Kingston is its uniquely rich culture and heritage. By connecting our plans to rejuvenate the borough with Kingston’s amazing past, we will be able to provide an even better place for residents, businesses and visitors to enjoy. This rings true for the new leisure facilities set to replace the Kingfisher, for all our amazing cultural events and for reimagining the future for our town centres.