Anger over pro­posal to close pool

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

PEO­PLE in the Rhondda are an­gry a com­mu­nity swimming pool used tens of thou­sands of times each year could soon be closed.

It comes as Rhondda Cynon Taf coun­cil is set to con­sider “ma­jor im­prove­ments” for Rhondda Fach Sports Cen­tre in Ty­lorstown, which will mean a new 3G sur­face for five-a-side foot­ball and a new fit­ness fa­cil­ity. But if the pro­pos­als are passed, it will also mean clos­ing the cen­tre’s swimming pool.

The coun­cil said this is down to “low us­age”, and pointed to sta­tis­tics that show just un­der 27,000 uses of the pool in the 2016/17 year – the low­est of RCT’s seven leisure cen­tres.

In­de­pen­dent coun­cil­lor for Fern­dale, Phil Howe, is against the plans, and said: “In the Rhondda Fach, we don’t have a great deal. Peo­ple don’t want it to close be­cause a lot of peo­ple still use it.

“Look­ing at the foot­fall fig­ures, those for ‘ca­sual’ swimming – 14,775, are up there with all of the other cen­tres, and even higher than Tonyre­fail and Abercynon. It’s a fun pool, schools can’t use it be­cause it’s not got enough lanes, which is why it scored low in that cat­e­gory.”

He also said the open­ing hours were im­prac­ti­cal for peo­ple to use the gym.

“In Aberdare, you can go to the gym or pool any time be­tween 6am and 10pm, but at Ty­lorstown it’s very dif­fi­cult un­less you’re work­ing flex­i­ble hours – it doesn’t open un­til after 8am,” he said.

He added: “If the open­ing hours were ex­tended, I’m sure lots more peo­ple would use it. I to­tally un­der­stand the drop in bud­get and that the coun­cil has cut­backs, but we want them to re­think this de­ci­sion and maybe give us a year whereby we can have another look at it.”

The re­port will be con­sid­ered by the coun­cil’s cab­i­net to­day, and the pro­posal is to in­vest more than £500,000 to “mod­ernise” the cen­tre. It will in­clude a new fit­ness suite and the con­ver­sion of part of the build­ing into an in­door 3G sur­face.

It comes after the pool’s to­tal us­age fig­ure of 26,885 was bet­tered by ev­ery other pool in the county bor­ough, with Llantrisant Leisure Cen­tre the most used at 111,073 users for the 2016/17 year.

Ann Crim­mings, RCT coun­cil’s cab­i­net mem­ber for en­vi­ron­ment and leisure, said there was “po­ten­tial” to in­crease the swimming ca­pac­ity at other cen­tres to ac­com­mo­date the clo­sure, but the space cur­rently used by the ac­tiv­ity pool will be de­vel­oped into a two-tier fit­ness area.

“These plans pro­pose a rad­i­cal re-con­fig­u­ra­tion of the fa­cil­ity to en­sure it is not only fit-for-pur­pose but has a sus­tain­able po­si­tion in our wider leisure of­fer mov­ing for­ward,” she added.

The re­port will pro­pose a four-week con­sul­ta­tion users, be­fore full con­sid­er­a­tion is de­ter­mined.

Rhondda AM Leanne Wood said many in the Fach felt “let down and rightly so” by the pro­posal. She added: “Just like they did in Tre­herbert, a Labour coun­cil is tak­ing away yet another swimming pool. This will only make it harder for peo­ple to ac­cess leisure fa­cil­i­ties and be ac­tive.”

An­drew Mor­gan, leader of the coun­cil, said: “Us­age of the pool has de­clined sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years and we need to look at pro­pos­als which would cre­ate ca­pac­ity for gyms and sport­ing clubs – for which de­mand is in­creas­ing.

“The in­vest­ment be­ing pro­posed will en­sure the cen­tre has sus­tain­able and se­cure fu­ture along­side the three other leisure fa­cil­i­ties which serve the Rhondda.”

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