A Straight Line Walk Across London

by Paul K Lyons

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23 - The planning appeals of go-karters and church-goers; the Redskins' resurrection

Continuing north, I enter South Streatham's entertainment land. First comes a go-kart track, then a church (which not everyone would classify as entertainment), an ice rink and a swimming pool. But all is not as it seems.

The go-kart track is housed in a massive modernish yellow-brick building with orange paint work. This used to be the Streatham Bus Garage. Indeed there are two red double-decker buses parked in the forecourt as I pass. A driver, however, tells me he only uses the forecourt for turning round. In fact, the garage became surplus to the requirements of South London Buses in 1992, and buses have been using it for turning only since then. In 1994, an application was made to transform the building into an indoor market, but this was withdrawn after the Highways Agency raised concerns over traffic impacts. In 1996, retrospective planning permission, valid for six months, was granted for an indoor go-kart track to assess the effects of its use on the surrounding area. Complaints followed, and when the applicant, Playscape Pro-Racing, failed to address concerns about noise, further planning permission was refused. However, the track continued to operate, and the Council planned a forced closure. This action was averted, though, when Playscape lodged a planning appeal. The appeal failed, so the company brought a legal case to the High Court. At the same time, it also submitted a fresh planning application, and took various measures to ameliorate the noise problems. When the Council found these to be acceptable, planning permission was granted in November 1998, and then extended to 2004. The planning approval allowed the go-kart track to operate between 10am to 10pm daily, so long as all karts were fitted with silencers; all external doors and windows were closed; and there was no amplified sound, speech or music audible outside the premises. Another condition, among a dozen more, was that the premises were only to be used by pre-booked customers (apparently to avoid obstruction of the surrounding streets).

The Streatham United Reform Church was built, at the turn of the last century, with red brick, Corsham stone dressings, and a square buttressed and castellated tower. A glass window, with a flower display behind, has replaced what must have been an east door, under the tower, facing the road. In the late 70s and early 80s, the Church became embroiled in a land dispute with London Transport over a compulsory order for the Church's land. The Church appealed to the High Court, and won. Since then, it has been given a historical buildings Grade II listing. Various extensions have been added over the years, and a hall on the north side, previously used for a Sunday school, is derelict, with its upper window panes all broken.

Streatham Ice Rink was opened in February 1931 in a building designed by Robert Cromie, a renowned designer of cinemas. The facade was built in reconstructed Portland stone and black faience. When 3,000 people attended the opening, the headline in the local paper ran 'Don't go to Switzerland: Come to Streatham'. Like other rinks, it was closed during World War Two and used for food storage. After the war, the ice surface was cut back to make room for extra seating. In 1962, Mecca bought the facility and invested in some improvements before reopening it as a Silver Blades Rink. In 1979, when the rink closed because the machinery broke down, a local campaign led to a further refurbishment and reopening. In 1990, it was bought by Law Estates. Among the famous names of ice skating who have performed or trained here are: speed skater Phil Taylor, father of Megan Taylor who became a world champion in 1938; Olympic figure skating champion Jeanette Altwegg in the 1950s; and the four times World Ice Dance Champions Diane Towler and Bernard Ford in the 1960s.

Today, the ice rink is home to the Streatham Redskins, a team which has been out of senior hockey for a decade. The building looks a real mess. A range of mismatched banners half-cover up the peeling paint work, and cheap advertising posters are plastered over the doors: One says 'Are you planning a birthday party? Here at the ice arena YOU have all the FUN, and leave the FUSS to us. Great new party package.' Nevertheless this season, 2003-04, the Streatham Redskins - now being sponsored by Tesco's - are back again in the English National Hockey League. One of their competitors wrote in a match programme: 'We welcome one of the clubs that has a name which gives a magical ring to our sport in the UK. A name that is synonymous with our sport and one that ranks alongside the late lamented Wembley Lions, Durham Wasps and Brighton Tigers'. Redskin home matches are played at 6:45 on Sundays.

The ice rink stands next to the old municipal swimming pool which is now called Streatham Leisure Centre. Inside there is a swimming pool, though it's impossible to know this from the outside where notices advertise a 'cardio theatre', 'resistance gym', a 1,000 sq ft dance studio, and health studio (including sauna, steam room and sunbeds), but not a pool. After three years of construction, the pool opened in 1927 with, what was then, a modern design employing the latest filtration and chlorination techniques. Squashed in-between the pool building and Streatham station are two run-down buildings offering a carpet warehouse and a car wash.

 A Straight Line Walk Across London - along the 300 easting

by Paul K Lyons
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