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Caerphilly Council to seek public opinions on Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre closure

Campaigners Save Our Leisure Centre Pontllanfraith (Pic: Kate Alderson)

COUNCILLORS in Caerphilly will seek the public’s opinions before deciding the fate of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre.

Cabinet members met on Wednesday (November 15) to discuss the planned closure of the mothballed facility.

Despite serving as a vaccine centre during the Covid-19 pandemic, the centre is no longer in use for sports and the council’s desire is to move services to more modern facilities elsewhere in the county borough.

Addressing a backlog of repairs alone would cost an estimated £500,000, and buying new equipment and an all-weather sports pitch would also mean six-figure spending, according to a council report.

Caerphilly County Borough Council’s leadership expects the local authority will have to save £50 million over the next two years, owing to inflation and shrinking local government settlements.

And with those costs in mind, the cabinet is pursuing the closure of Pontllanfraith leisure centre – with a public consultation on the proposal running from late November until early January.

Consultees will be asked how often they used the old centre, whether they have used facilities elsewhere, and how they travel to their current leisure centre.

The future of the leisure centre has long been a controversial issue in the Pontllanfraith area, sparking a grassroots campaign to save the site.

Artist impression of the new Centre Vulnerable Learners in Pontllanfraith (Pic: CCBC)

Building work has begun on a nearby Centre for Vulnerable Learners, and the council plans to open that centre’s sports facilities to the public outside of its opening hours.

Council leader Sean Morgan previously acknowledged the proposed closure of the leisure centre was a “difficult” decision but said the local authority had “plenty of other modern, fit-for-purpose facilities available”.

But Shane Williams, vice chairman of the council’s housing and environment scrutiny committee, urged the local authority to reconsider its proposal to close the leisure centre.

He said “many other users of the sports hall have not been accommodated anywhere else and have been left with the choice to give up sport or travel outside the borough”, and to “continue to suggest they have all been relocated within the county is just wrong”.

Cllr Williams also challenged the plan to use the Centre for Vulnerable Learners as a replacement leisure centre for the community and local sports teams.

“Such a reduced facility is totally unsuitable for so many teams that currently use Pontllanfraith and cannot act as a replacement,” he said.

In the Senedd, meanwhile, South Wales East representative Delyth Jewell told Welsh Parliament colleagues on Wednesday she was concerned about the implications for vulnerable people if leisure centres closed.

Noting Caerphilly cabinet’s meeting that same day, she asked how vulnerable people could be protected.

Welsh Government counsel-general Mick Antoniw said councils were “best-placed to manage” the organisation of their leisure centres, but should be “mindful” of their public sector responsibilities, of people with protected characteristics, and of the national Wellbeing of Future Generations legislation.