MAJOR plans to build a new leisure centre, skatepark and 21st Century entertainment venue are on the rocks due to the credit crunch and plummeting housing market, a leading councillor has revealed.

Harrow Council’s grand plans to build a new Harrow Leisure Centre, replace Byron Hall and build a new skatepark have been delayed, as the council struggles to raise enough money.

Councillor Marilyn Ashton, chair of the planning committee and a leading member of the cabinet, issued a stark warning to residents of Harrow that work on other major projects could grind to a halt if the economic decline continues unabated.

In an exclusive interview with the Harrow Times, she said: “The credit crunch is destabilising our future and Harrow is not living in a bubble.

“The developers can't afford to buy the land from us and they can't afford to build anything.

“If they can't do that, we are not going to have a new leisure centre. Nothing is going to happen, we are completely stuck.”

In the autumn of last year, the council announced ambitious plans to spend £37.2m redeveloping the leisure centre and the surrounding areas in Byron Park.

The multimillion pound scheme relied on the council selling some land on Byron Park for housing and selling the Gayton Road library site in the town centre to raise capital.

However, the council has so far failed to attract enough interest in the Byron Park land – which Cllr Ashton has blamed on the poor condition of the housing market – and the plans may now have to be shelved until the council can raise the money.

She said: “I think we could have done with another leisure centre and a brand new assembly hall.

“Other people agree or disagree with the plans, but it ain't going to happen, not for a long time.”

The leisure centre plans, as well as large developments in the town centre, have attracted criticism from sports users and political opponents, who have accused the ruling Tory party of not having a grand plan for the future of the borough.

But Cllr Ashton, who has been hit with a lot of the criticism due to her role as chair of the planning committee charged with deciding on planning permission for all developments, said people should look beyond the protests and criticism.

She said: “People ought to be worried about this and instead of turning their attention to being quite nasty about the aspirations we have, they should turn their attention to the failures of administrations to make sure we had enough for a rainy day.”

Gareth Thomas, MP for Harrow West, who has been a vocal critic of the council’s plans, urged the Conservatives to use the delay to revisit and revise the redevelopment ideas.

He said: “It is good news if the leisure centre is not going to close.

“If this gives them a chance to rethink what they are doing, both there and in the town centre, then it is good news.”