Promises of a new leisure “hub” on the site of Splott Pool met with mixed reaction at a public meeting last night.
About 150 people turned up for the public meeting at the STAR Centre on Splott Road, Cardiff, determined to make their voices heard.
Before it started, many protested outside in the wind and rain, including children and the elderly, against plans outlined in the council’s 2013/4 draft budget to close the pool to save £300,000 a year.
But Labour councillor for the Splott ward, Luke Holland, started the meeting by stating that the community would not lose the pool.
He said: “Splott Pool is not going to close.
“I’m not going to ask anyone here if the past 10 days have been anything but difficult.”
Proposals for rejuvenating the leisure facilities that serve Splott, Tremorfa and Adamsdown include rebuilding a leisure hub on the Splott Pool site, housing a new pool, library, gym and community facilities.
The existing STAR Centre would be demolished and redeveloped for affordable housing, said Mr Holland.
He said: “We need something bigger, better. I would have preferred to announce this proposal earlier but they weren’t bottomed out.
“We need to make sure we have a long-term, sustainable leisure facility.
“In terms of putting exact costs on it, there’s money available for a community hub. It’s something we think can work.”
He revealed that incinerator company Viridor was one of the possible options to help with the project’s funding and that a public consultation would allow the public to choose what else they wanted to put in the new hub.
Mr Holland was joined on the panel by Councillor Huw Thomas, who is the cabinet member for sports, leisure and culture, Splott Labour councillor Greta Marshall, Cardiff South and Penarth AM Vaughan Gething and MP Stephen Doughty.
Darren Warburton, spokesman for Save Splott Pool, asked for assurances that if the new project did not get community backing, would the ward councillors fight to keep the existing Splott Pool open and vote against the proposed budget? The answer was a firm no.
Of the proposed project, he said: “If they can get it through it’s great. If they can make it work let’s go for it.
“The STAR and the pool need improvement, and they’re not going to fund that – so I don’t know how they’ll fund this new hub. And I don’t know how they are ever going to get it through.
“Our heads are on the block here – go for it, or lose it.”
Questions about whether staff would be retained at the new facility and whether there would be provisions for disabled swimmers that match the ones currently at Splott Pool, could not be answered at the meeting.
Outside, 84-year-old protester Eleanor Read had spoken passionately about the possible loss of a community pool.
She said: “If we lose it where will the children go?
“We’ve got the councillors sitting on their millions and they can’t afford a refurbishment.
“It’s wonderful that all these people have turned out to protest.
“The council finds enough to support places in Cyncoed and Pentwyn but when it comes to Splott, they’re not interested.”