Home » Row over Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre demolition rages on as decision day draws closer
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Row over Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre demolition rages on as decision day draws closer

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

A COUNCILLOR fighting to save Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre from demolition has challenged claims the site is not fit for purpose.

Caerphilly Council plans to close down the centre, which it said has a maintenance backlog of £475,000 and no longer contains gym equipment.

The 3G all-weather pitch outside the centre, which is popular among local sports teams, will also be ripped up because the council said it was reaching the end of its lifespan.

Labour councillor Shane Williams told a Caerphilly Council committee meeting on Tuesday (February 13) that he disputed the local authority’s claims.

“I don’t think any of us has seen a breakdown of the £475,000,” he said.

According to a council report, Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre was closed at the beginning of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, and then served for nearly two years as a coronavirus vaccine centre, before that use ended in June 2023.

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Cllr Williams suggested that “by it not reopening” since then, “effectively it’s already been closed”.

Leisure officers told the committee that repairing the centre’s sports hall floor would account for most of the six-figure maintenance backlog, but Cllr Williams argued the surface was “fit for purpose”.

He told the meeting there were other sports halls in nearby council areas in a worse condition than the one in Pontllanfraith.

The results of a public consultation showed nearly three in four respondents believed the closure would have a negative impact on them, including members of local sports teams who use the 3G pitch.

Committee members Teresa Heron and Haydn Pritchard both flagged concerns about difficulties booking slots at other 3G pitches nearby.

Officers told the committee the council had “created additional capacity” by opening weekend bookings at Islwyn High School, and said a closure of Newbridge Leisure Centre’s 3G pitch was only short-term for an “upgrade”.

The council is building a new education facility, the Centre for Vulnerable Learners (CVL), next to Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre, and from spring 2025 that new centre’s all-weather pitch will be available for community bookings outside of school hours.

Cllr Williams said “we all know it’s half the size” of the current 3G pitch in Pontllanfraith and “not suitable” for many teams that needed larger areas for training or matches.

Leisure facilities manager Robert Hartshorn said councillors shouldn’t “ignore” that the pitch was “reaching the end of its life” and would need to be replaced.

Another officer acknowledged that the replacement pitch at the CVL wouldn’t be full sized, but explained that the “majority” of bookings the council received were for “half-pitches”.

The housing and environment scrutiny committee noted the results of the consultation, and Caerphilly Council’s cabinet is expected to make a final decision on the future of Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre in early April.