Planned closure of leisure centre will have ‘profound’ impact on community
Nicholas Thomas, local democracy reporter
The proposed closure of a leisure centre has been branded “disappointing” by a local councillor, who said those campaigning to save the site “haven’t been listened to.”
Caerphilly County Borough Council indicated this week it would push for the Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre to be closed, citing a £500,000 maintenance backlog and “significant investment” in “modern” leisure services elsewhere in the borough.
Caerphilly Council leader Sean Morgan acknowledged “closing any community facility can be difficult” but defended the “huge investment delivered by our ambitious Sport and Active Recreation Strategy over recent years”.
“With more planned, it is clear to see that we have plenty of other modern, fit for purpose facilities available,” he added.
But Cllr Shane Williams, of the Cefn Fforest and Pengam ward, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the proposed closure would have a “significant impact” on the community.
The leisure centre closed in March 2020, and then served as a Covid-19 vaccination centre, but community efforts to save the site long predate the pandemic.
Despite the investment elsewhere in Caerphilly, Cllr Williams said “I don’t think it is acceptable to keep saying to people they have to travel across the borough to access sport”.
He praised the grassroots campaign to save Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre, but said a new plan for a consultation on the closure meant many people felt the decision to close the site had been all but made.
“From the start the council’s view has been to close Pontllanfraith centre… and this is the next stage,” Cllr Williams told the LDRS.
“Many people feel they haven’t been listened to, and that they’ve now been told what is going to happen.”
Caerphilly Council said an “impressive” Centre for Vulnerable Learners, on the site of Pontllanfraith’s old comprehensive school, would restore some community sports provision to the area outside of school hours.
Cllr Williams, however, said that project represented a “significantly reduced facility from what’s there now”.
“From the moment the Centre for Vulnerable Learners was announced the public was repeatedly told that it would be an alternative,” he said. “It is now being talked up as a replacement.”
“I don’t deny it is something – but the sports hall is smaller than a normal sports hall; there are no squash facilities, no fitness suite, no dance studio,” he added.
The replacement of an all-weather sports pitch with a “half-size MUGA (multi-use games area)” was “not an alternative”, Cllr Williams said. “The impact that will have on so many clubs is going to be quite profound.”
Caerphilly Council’s cabinet will seek a public consultation on the closure proposal, with a decision expected “in the new year”.
Caerphilly County Borough Council was approached to respond to Cllr Williams’ comments.
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