SPORT England has come out in opposition to Harrow Council's designs for a new leisure centre.

In an 11-point attack on the authority's controversial plan to replace the leisure centre with a new but smaller facility, Peter Durrans, planning manager for Sport England, criticised the reduction in sporting facilities.

He said: "Sport England considers the proposals to be damaging to a wide range of existing sporting interests and they would reduce opportunities for participation in sport and active recreation in the borough."

Mr Durrans supported the objections already voiced by various sports groups in the borough, including Harrow and Wealdstone Swimming Club, Harrow Squash Club, Wembley and Harrow Table Tennis League and the Harrow Skatepark Users' Association.

He expressed concerns about the level of opposition to the location of the new centre, which would mean the demolition of Harrow Skatepark.

If a new skatepark was built on Byron Recreation Ground, the council would be required to consult with Sport England. Mr Durrans highlighted the fact there are no details about where the new skatepark will be built.

Mr Durrans went on to support the fears of many sports clubs by criticising the size of the new centre, in Christchurch Avenue.

The proposed centre will have a smaller swimming pool, two squash courts instead of the existing eight, no replacement for the purpose-built table tennis arena and a reduced capacity for sports including badminton, five-a-side football and basketball.

He said: "Sport England is not aware of any evidence to demonstrate that the sports facilities which would be lost as a result of the implementation of the current proposals are surplus to requirements.

"The objections made by current users appear to indicate that they are still much valued by the community."

Mr Durrans' comments on behalf of Sport England will come as a major blow to Harrow Council, which has heralded the new £36m centre as a major investment in sports facilities in the borough.

Councillor Anjana Patel, portfolio holder for community and cultural services, said the council is listening to the concerns of local groups.

She said: "All the needs of sports users in the borough will be considered, not just the small groups."

Although Sport England has submitted an official objection to the leisure centre plans, Cllr Patel said the council is not planning to meet with the organisation while it works on the plans.