A LEISURE centre is to be demolished to make way for a £22 million secondary school after a site originally earmarked for the scheme fell through.

The recently-refurbished Ladywell Leisure Centre will be shut down in 2007 so the council can keep its promise to open a new school in the north of the borough.

Opposition members have called the plans a disgrace for not addressing the problem of school places.

The decision was made after the favoured site for the new four-form entry school, the former police station and mortuary on Ladywell Road, was put on the open market on June 12.

Its owner, the Metropolitan Police Authority, told Lewisham Council it would not sell direct to them in December last year and education bosses have now chosen a new site.

A temporary school will be established on the site of the former Ennersdale Primary School in Leahurst Road and will open its doors by September 2006.

The leisure centre, which reopened in June after a 20-month, £1.8 million programme of refurbishment, will close three years early in 2007 and will be redeveloped into the new school by 2009.

A new leisure centre will be opened in 2010 as part of the £255 million Thames Gateway development on the High Street.

Lewisham Mayor Steve Bullock said: "I'm convinced we need a new school and I'm going to deliver it to the timetable I have promised. This location in Ladywell is accessible to the whole of the north of Lewisham and I am persuaded it can serve that part of the borough."

For more than two years Local Education Action by Parents (LEAP) and the Socialist Party have been calling for a new school in the north of the borough.

Socialist Party councillor Chris Flood said: "The arrogance of the mayor and cabinet is breathtaking. In effect, they demolished the Telegraph Hill secondary school to build a sixth form no-one needs, proposed a Ladywell site which didn't work, closed Ennersdale Primary School to make a temporary secondary school and now want to demolish a leisure centre to build what amounts to the secondary school we had in the first place.

"It's a disgraceful mess and shows the council is not listening to parents."

The mayor and cabinet will discuss the proposals tonight and are expected to approve the new plans.