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Now Wembley saga imperils Owen Williams' Empire Pool

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Fears are rising that the Richard Rogers Partnership is planning to demolish Sir Owen Williams' 1934 Empire Pool as part of its masterplan proposals for the area around Wembley Stadium (aj 20.4.00).

The practice this week refused to divulge any details of its 'confidential' plans - other than revealing the 'mystery' client to be Wembley plc, but the Twentieth Century Society is concerned after it heard that their plans will involve flattening the area, including Williams' famous listed pool. And Wembley director of property John Garside told the aj it is a 'possibility' that the pool will go to make way for a planned 'largely entertainment- based' mixed-use scheme including retail, leisure, housing and a hotel across the 30ha site.

Society casework officer John Bancroft said demolishing the Grade II- listed building would be a big mistake: 'You can count me as being in front of the bulldozers - it's a great building,' he said.

The pool on Empire Way was built 10 years after Wembley Stadium. It is of reinforced concrete, and features three hinged arches spanning over 70m - the largest concrete span in the world when built. The pool, which was used for the 1948 Olympic games, was 61m long and 18m wide with a deck for ice-skating. The end of the building opens and used to lead to sun-bathing terraces and lawns. The sides have massive concrete buttresses. The ends have 20 narrow lights of increasing height from the edges to the centre.

The client for Rogers' masterplan, Wembley plc, owns the conference centre, exhibition hall, arena and pool and is looking to regenerate the area around the proposed new £475 million stadium, although how it will get round its own car space requirements remains to be seen. It plans to unveil Rogers' proposals in mid-June.

The question of Wembley's environs has been a long-running sore between Brent Council and the builders of the new stadium, the Wembley National Stadium company, with Brent insisting that any new stadium must be accompanied by area improvements. But Wembley Task Force boss Sir Nigel Mobbs has now intervened to broker a deal. Wembley's Ken Bates has agreed to pay £17 million rather than either the £4 million the company initially offered - which it later upped to £10 million - or the £30 million Brent says infrastructure improvements will need. Brent threatened to refuse planning permission before Easter unless more money could be found. The project will now go to Brent's planning committee in 'mid-May'.

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