The John Nike Leisure Centre can be replaced by an industrial building and warehouse, Bracknell Forest councillors have ruled. But developers have agreed to pay to help renovate Bracknell Leisure Centre to make up for the loss.

The ice rink and ski slope in Binfield closed in March 2020, at the start of the first coronavirus lockdown, and never reopened. A company called Bracknell Investment LLP later bought the site and the ice rink building was demolished in 2022.

The company says it’s no longer viable to run a leisure facility where the ice rink used to be. But planning law says land used for leisure purposes shouldn’t normally be converted into something else – unless it’s replaced by an ‘improved facility’ elsewhere.

That’s why developers have agreed to pay more than £300,000 to Bracknell Forest Council to cover the costs of renovating Bracknell Leisure Centre.

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Bracknell Investment LLP says that the rising cost of living, coupled with competition from the Ozone ice rink and The Lexicon, meant it couldn’t keep the site open for leisure.

Council planning officer Jo Male said that – to meet planning rules – the developers agreed to pay £324,000 towards the refurbishment of Bracknell Leisure Centre.

Plans approved by Bracknell Council leaders last year include a new soft play and refurbished squash courts at the leisure centre on Bagshot Road.

Most of the councillors on Bracknell Forest’s planning committee agreed that the payment was an acceptable alternative to trying to keep a leisure facility on the John Nike site.

Councillor Gareth Barnard said: “It was very said when the ice rink and the ski slope closed and it was lost to many generations of those in the borough who’d used it over many years.

He added: “At least by conditioning this there is a contribution to provide leisure elsewhere which is reasonable and we’ve seen in many other applications.”

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Councillor Barnard also wanted to make it clear that the payment was not a reason to grant planning permission – only that planning rules require developers to make a contribution to leisure facilities.

Councillor Patrick Smith agreed. He warned: “It’s obviously a sizeable sum of money and that runs the risk of looking like the applicant might be paying the council for a planning approval.”

He wanted ‘crystal clear clarification that that’s definitely not the situation.’

Planning conditions also require that developers keep parking spaces free for the ski ramp, which will not be demolished. This is to try and keep the possibility open that the ski ramp might open again in the future.

But the ski ramp is not owned by Bracknell Investment LLP, and there are no plans to reopen it.