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Councillors agree £45m outline plans for redevelopment and expansion of leisure centre in Barnet

Outline plans to redevelop and expand a North Finchley leisure centre at a cost of up to £45.7million have been agreed by councillors.

Finchley Lido Leisure Centre is set to be demolished and rebuilt after its existing building, which opened in 1996, was deemed not fit-for-purpose by Barnet Council last year.

The town hall pledged to keep the centre on its current site at council-owned Great North Leisure Park, which has been earmarked for a new housing development, after a clear majority of residents said they wanted it to stay.

An outline business case for the centre’s redevelopment was approved during a meeting of the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (14th).

The council’s preferred option, which carries an estimated price tag of between £40m and £45.7m, would see the new centre built on a disused outdoor bowling green just outside the area leased to developer Regal London, which is drawing up plans to build new homes on the 4.4-hectare leisure park.

The new facility would provide a replacement swimming pool and lido together with a learner pool, three fitness studios and a 690 square-metre gym. There would also be an indoor adventure zone, soft play, sauna and steam rooms, health consultation rooms and a cafe.

According to a report presented to the cabinet meeting, this option “provides a broad range of facilities for residents of all ages and abilities”, and the existing leisure centre “will remain open and operational until a new facility is constructed”.

The proposals would see other existing leisure uses on Great North Leisure Park, such as the cinema and indoor bowling, moved to North Finchley town centre under plans to create “a destination for leisure, arts and cultural uses and food and beverage”.

Under a draft development agreement, which is still being negotiated and is subject to change, Regal London has agreed to build the new leisure centre in return for the council extending the site’s lease and removing certain restrictions on its use.

The developer is expected to pay the council a premium for the construction of the new leisure centre, with additional investment of up to £17m made by the local authority to build the facility.

Ammar Naqvi, Barnet’s cabinet member for culture, leisure, arts and sports, told Tuesday’s meeting the scheme would provide better facilities for residents and achieve “the perfect equilibrium” between investment and revenue generation.

Dawn Wakeling, the council’s director of communities, adults and health, said the facilities mix provided by option B was the “closest match” to what existing users and local residents said they wanted to see when they were consulted on the proposals.

A full business case for the proposals will be brought to cabinet for approval at a later date. Under a timeline set out in the report, plans for the redevelopment of the site could be submitted in spring next year, with the new leisure centre set to open in winter 2027.