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Empowering the Local Community to Shape an Inclusive Future for Sobell Leisure Centre


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Islington Council is embarking on an exciting endeavour to enlist the help of its local residents in crafting an inclusive program of activities at the brand-new Sobell Leisure Centre. The aim is to ensure that people from all walks of life and age groups can partake in the immense benefits of sports and physical activities, fostering a more equitable future by challenging prevailing inequalities.

To achieve their mission of inclusivity, the council intends to actively reach out to those who are often underrepresented in the realm of sports and fitness, including women and girls, low-income families, disabled individuals, Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities, as well as older adults. By engaging these communities, the council hopes to create a truly diverse and all-encompassing range of activities at the Sobell Leisure Centre.

This initiative comes after the council conducted a comprehensive six-week consultation, during which 1,003 individuals shared their ideas, insights, and visions for the Sobell Leisure Centre. The ground floor of the centre had previously suffered from a devastating flood in August of the previous year.

During the consultation, local residents expressed their desire for a more inclusive array of activities, and the council, in conjunction with GLL – the charitable organization managing Sobell on behalf of the council – has heeded their calls and is set to implement the following transformative improvements:

Collaboration with underrepresented groups to establish an inclusive program of activities catering to all individuals. This may entail targeted sessions for specific groups, the introduction of inclusive sports like wheelchair basketball, and multi-generational activities.

Responding to feedback gathered during the consultation, the council plans to significantly expand the range of sports offered at the centre. Handball, paddle tennis, archery, netball, indoor cricket, and hockey are among the potential additions to the sports roster.

Creating a vibrant, high-energy active zone accessible to people of all ages.

Extending and enhancing existing facilities, including the squash courts, gym, dojo, and boxing studio.

In the coming days, the council will outline the process by which it will collaborate directly with underrepresented groups in sports and physical activities to establish an inclusive program at the Sobell Leisure Centre.

Before the consultation began, the council, in conjunction with GLL, faced the challenging decision of proposing not to rebuild the Sobell’s ice rink. The rink had been running at a loss of £250,000 per year even before the recent cost-of-living crisis and energy price increases. Comparatively, the trampoline park had been witnessing an average weekly usage of 2,000 people, whereas the ice rink’s average was approximately 490 people per week. Additionally, the opening of the new, double Olympic-sized rink at Lee Valley had further impacted the ice rink’s viability.

Though 54% of consultation respondents stated that they would not be adversely affected by the non-reinstatement of the ice rink, the council paid heed to the 36% who expressed concerns about the decision. Despite thorough exploration of various possibilities to reinstate the ice rink, none were found to be feasible. As a result, the council has now taken the difficult decision not to proceed with the ice rink reinstatement.

To assist Sobell ice rink users in transitioning to other facilities, the council is working urgently to make the process as smooth as possible, including the possibility of offering transport to the state-of-the-art rinks at Lee Valley for those who may face travel challenges.

Cllr Nurullah Turan, Islington Council’s Executive Member for Health and Social Care, emphasized the council’s commitment to creating a more equitable Islington, where everyone can enjoy the mental, physical, and social benefits of an active lifestyle. He expressed the council’s eagerness to implement the desires of the local community and transform Sobell Leisure Centre into a modern and welcoming facility accessible to an even larger population.

The council has published its plans for the Sobell Leisure Centre in a “key decision” report, scheduled for approval on Wednesday, 2 August. Later this year, the council, in partnership with GLL, will present their final plans, reflecting the direct engagement undertaken with the local community. Through this collaborative effort, the Sobell Leisure Centre is set to become a thriving hub for inclusive sports and physical activities, enabling individuals from all backgrounds to partake in the joys of an active lifestyle.

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