‘Lifeline’: Campaigners call for council U-turn on Sobell ice rink closure

Protesting over the proposed future of Sobell ice rink

Save it: Protesters make their voices heard outside Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Campaigners are urging politicians to reverse a decision to close an ice rink destroyed by flood water.

Islington Council said it is too costly to run the historic ice rink at the Sobell leisure centre and that it does not attract enough users.

Instead, it wants to build a soft play area to draw in families and help them get active.

The council agreed not to reinstall a new rink at a meeting this summer.

A petition started by ice hockey player Charlie Nevile was signed by 5,166 people, forcing the council to debate the rink’s closure.

Nevile told councillors: “Sobell Ice Rink has helped me with my mental and physical health, as it has others too. It is a fantastic public rink with reasonable prices for people to get into skating in all its wonderful forms.

“I’m an ice hockey player who took a lot of pleasure from playing at Sobell ice rink.”

He said the closure means some people will “lose their jobs, social communities, and a place to use the ice for mental and physical wellbeing”.

Madeleine Beasley from Sobell Skaters told councillors that many people would lose out if the closure goes ahead.

The club has 400 members and she said travel to alternative rinks at Alexandra Palace and Lee Valley, suggested by the council, is too costly for some.

She said Alexandra Palace had been able to offer them a few sessions, but training once a week is “not enough”.

She told councillors: “Closing Sobell has removed all access to our sport in Islington.”

She said: “This is not about soft play versus ice rink – there has always been room for both.”

Beasley pointed to “the successes that many of my Black players and coaches achieved from skating at Sobell”.

Cllr Nurullah Turan, executive member for health and social care, said the flood had devastating consequences.

He said the council had consulted widely and will soon be launching its physical activity programme, which aims to tackling inequalities and get more people into sports.

Cllr Ernestas Armstrong-Jegorovas said: “One of the skaters told us Sobell was a lifeline that gave her access to skating.”