Campaigners try for new ice rink on famous site

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The Independent Online
DEVELOPERS who demolished one of Britain's most famous ice rinks - at Richmond, in south-west London - indicated yesterday that they had no immediate plans to build the 250 luxury flats for which the 10-acre riverside site was earmarked.

Campaigners who failed to stave off the closure and demolition in January, also revealed a proposal for a leisure complex and hotel on the site.

London and Edinburgh Trust, the developers who bought the rink in 1987 and operated it until closure, said they were willing to sell for more than pounds 20m, but could delay until the property market picks up.

The company has already paid Richmond council pounds 2.5m in compensation after trying for two years, and failing, to meet its obligation to find a site for a new rink in the borough.

Yesterday, Richard Meacock, who last year went on hunger strike for several days and recently stood for Parliament in his battle over the rink, said he was trying to draw together investors interested in the scheme which would see a rink back on the site where it had been for 63 years.

But the local authority, while acknowledging its desire to see an ice rink back within the borough, said that it would examine the proposal for a leisure complex of two rinks - one for training - an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 125-bedroom hotel on its merits.

The moves to close the rink on its prestigious site drew howls of protest from residents, who had seen John Curry, the 1976 Olympic gold-medallist, Robin Cousins, and Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean hone their skills on the ice.

London and Edinburgh was orginally to have replaced the rink with another in a pounds 22.5m complex on the site of the deteriorating public swimming baths on the edge of Old Deer Park.

But Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club blocked the plan when it exercised its veto on the change of use needed for an access road. Other sites around the borough for a rink and leisure complex have also foundered.

Moves finally to close the rink prompted 48,000 people to sign a petition in opposition. But this year the doors closed and the building was demolished. Two show homes have now been built.

Jim Bushell, chairman of Richmond Skating Defence Forum, said yesterday that he and Mr Meacock had met the developers four months ago when they expressed the desire to sell the land.

Peter Beckwith, of London and Edinburgh, said yesterday he was willing to meet Mr Meacock and Mr Bushell to discuss the proposition and sell provided they could show they could raise the money.