MICHAEL Sheen has spoken out about the controversy surrounding the replacement leisure complex that is planned for the Afan Lido.
He said: “I hope the people of Port Talbot get the swimming pool they deserve, and that the plans which are afoot are adequate to answer the needs and demands of the town.
“It would seem strange if Port Talbot were to have a smaller pool than that which serves the smaller village of Pontardawe.”
Local sports clubs have expressed concern that the council’s plans for the new lido, to replace the complex that was demolished this year after being gutted by fire in 2009, will not be fit for purpose.
Plans currently include a six-lane pool, four badminton courts, a library, a circular car park, retail units and enterprise units, and have been costed at £13 million.
“The Afan Lido was such a permanent fixture in all our lives for so many years,” added Sheen, fresh from the triumphant launch at the Apollo this month of The Gospel of Us, the movie of The Passion.
“The new swimming pool will be a central part of the town’s life for generations to come.
“I hope those in a position to affect the size and scope of this project will take this into consideration, and give the town something we can be proud of.”
Representatives of Aberavon Surf Lifesaving Club, Aberavon Swimming Club and Afan Lido FC have said 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.
Campaigner Robbie Phillips, a committee member of Aberavon Surf Lifesaving Club and a leisure consultant, said: “For £9.25 million, 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“We’ve seen pools in Haverfordwest, Carmarthen and Merthyr which have had modern facilities that have turned outdated pools around and made them into successes.”
After talks with the campaigners, Neath Port Talbot Council has agreed to carry out further consultation over the plans for the new sports centre.