IT WAS an exciting start to last night’s Afan Lido public meeting, when a false fire alarm threatened to clear the large crowd from the Four Winds before the meeting had even begun.
But the 200 or more people who turned up were not to be deterred, and in a show of hands, unanimously backed a campaign for a “facility we will all be proud of”.
The meeting had been called by local sports clubs who were concerned that the Council’s plans for the Lido would not be fit for purpose. The plans currently include a six-lane pool, four badminton courts, a library, a circular car park, retail units and enterprise units, and will cost £13m. In their latest discussions, the council has sought to locate part of the provision in the vacant bowling alley.
But representatives of the Aberavon Surf Lifesaving Club, the Aberavon Swimming Club and Afan Lido football club say the facility will be substandard. They want an eight-lane pool, learner facilities, provision for spectators, more space for indoor sports and all-weather pitches.
In his presentation, Robbie Phillips, a committee member of Aberavon Surf Lifesaving Club and a leisure consultant, said: “For £9.25m Port Talbot could have first class flexible dry and wet facilities. We’ve seen pools in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Merthyr which have had modern facilities that have turned out-dated pools around and made them into successes.”
Several local councillors attended the meeting, but Chief Executive Steve Phillips sent his apologies and there were no council officials present.
But Robbie Phillips said that Steve Phillips had met with the concerned clubs on Monday and had given them a commitment that there would be further consultation on the plans and also promised he would take councillors on a visit to the new pool in Haverfordwest to see the facilities there.
In a question-and-answer session, there was anger from the crowd. Many people wanted to know why the fire-damaged Lido building had been demolished, asking whether it might have been saved. One local woman asked how much the insurance settlement had been, and asked what happened to the money. And another asked why the Lido wouldn’t be rebuilt on the same site, and questioned what would happen to the site of the old Lido. There was also concern about the absence of a learner pool and spectator facilities in the plans.
Asbestos was blamed for the demolition of the building, while Robbie Phillips confirmed that he’d been assured the council had no plans for the Lido site.
Sandfields Councillor Collin Crowley said: “I can say that we had £3m in insurance, and we have put the £10m difference in from the council’s capital programme. When I first heard about the Lido fire I was devastated. The first thing we did was lobby councillors for a new pool. I was worried we wouldn’t even have a pool. Leisure is a non-statutory function and so it’s not something the council has to provide, especially in these hard times. But we want the best facilities for our children.”
“But there are 64 councillors,” he added. “You’ve got to convince all of them as well.”
However he did confirm that the plans would be going out for consultation again in May.
“You will all have the opportunity to have your say,” he said.
Sandfields Councillor Lella James said she was “very, very impressed by the number of people that have turned up.”
“This is my ward,” she said, “and it’s very, very important to me what happens. We want the best facilities. As the Chief Executive has said, we are going back out to consultation and we will be taking this back to the officers.
“I urge and implore you – when it goes out to public consultation write a letter of your concerns and what you would like to see when the new plans come out. That will give power to our elbow when we come to make decisions.”
Robbie Phillips said: “This ain’t gonna stop here. There are 64 councillors. If they think this is going to blow over it ain’t. We will take it public and get satisfaction.”