Fight to save Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre takes shock twist after council launch fresh closure bid


Caerphilly Council’s decision to close the leisure centre was quashed by the High Court earlier this year

The threat of closure rears its head again for a leisure centre despite a High Court judge previously quashing a council’s attempts to shut it down.

Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre, in Blackwood, was due to close earlier this year to be demolished to make way for a proposed new housing development.

A protest by users of the centre saw hundreds of people march through Blackwood town centre and 5,900 signed an online petition to keep it open, saying it provided a much needed resource for the community.

The matter went to the High Court in June and Caerphilly council’s decision to close the centre was overturned, due to a lack of evidence of the council discharging its duty under Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.

The decision provided respite for campaigners and the leisure centre remains open. However a new report submitted to Caerphilly council’s special environment and sustainability committee has put forward a new proposal for closure.

Included in the report is a new equality impact assessment, designed to mitigate the factors that led to the High Court quashing the council’s original proposal.

The report states: “The proposed closure of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre is consistent with the council’s sport and active recreation strategy 2019-29. Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre is not one of the strategic sites identified in the strategy for future investment.

There are significant financial benefits resulting from the closure of the leisure centre. In addition to the annual running costs there are substantial repair and replacement liabilities to be addressed and there is the opportunity for a capital receipt.

“The release of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre site can make a valuable contribution to the supply of homes and affordable homes within the county borough.”

It is estimated the sale of the land could return between £2.2m and £2.9m with one-off savings of between £800k and £1m and yearly savings of £125k.

While the council acknowledge the closure of the leisure centre would have a negative impact on disabled and elderly users, it claimed that nearby leisure centres were in a reasonable distance and would benefit from the funds accrued by the sale of land.

It will be discussed at the scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday.

Blackwood Town councillor and Save Cefn Fforest and Pontllanfraith Leisure Centres campaign member Zoe Hammond said: “I am disappointed that we are yet again at the point that Caerphilly council has made the decision to call a special meeting in an attempt to close this much needed community facility.

“The report to go in front of members includes an equality impact assessment that seems to have been carried out and compiled by office data only, even the council’s own PR team was instructed to send out emails to all council members before Wednesday’s meeting has taken place. Why is this land so important to Caerphilly council?

“We have heard they would like to invest in the wellbeing of its residents yet Pontllanfraith (leisure centre) and its users are being told that travelling to other sites or schools is the answer when it is these schools who are the day time users of the leisure centre so where do they expect them to go?”

A spokesman for Caerphilly council said: “An email was sent to all councillors containing useful, factually correct information to assist them in responding to any queries from their constituents about this matter.”


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