Video report from ITV Wales' Richard Morgan who was live at this evening's community meeting
People living in a suburb of Cardiff have rallied against plans for their local leisure centre, which they say will see them lose 70% of the current facilities.
Pentwyn Leisure Centre closed in March 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic and has not been reopened to the public since then.
Instead, Cardiff Rugby used the centre for training on a temporary basis before it was used as a mass vaccination centre.
Now proposals to upgrade the facility have been put forward, which include leasing part of the building exclusively to Cardiff Rugby.
But people living in the area are unhappy and have set up a group opposing the changes. They say the upgrade will actually mean a downgrade, such as a smaller pool with no water slide.
Rhian Vernall is a co-founder of the group and has been personally affected by the closure.
"It's been really difficult. My eldest son has autism and he really enjoys the feedback of the water from swimming and using the leisure centre for that reason. When it suddenly stopped for Covid that was bad enough, but when it didn't open at all he asked a lot of questions about why it didn't and it's really hard to answer that as all the other leisure centres did open.
"We tried to use other leisure centres but he was used to that one. He was happy there and felt safe there, he enjoyed it. So now he's cut out swimming altogether
"To access other leisure centres without a car it means two bus rides and about an hour and a half to actually get anywhere.
"There's a massive feeling of heath inequality in this area. It's sitting on your doorstep and it's been empty except for Cardiff Rugby who are utilising it and it just seems unfair.
"It isn't good enough at all. They are calling it a refurbishment but actually they are taking the facilities away. We feel as a community we are really let down. We have lost our centre now for three years and we need it back."
Khia Mosiah Greaves is a youth worker and used to run services from the leisure centre.
"After Covid was lifted we couldn't use any of the facilities. We couldn't use the gym, we couldn't use the courts for basketball, football, tennis. We couldn't use the rooms we used for youth work. We used to teach the kids how to cook. We used to get together, focus on life goals, life skills.
"So now we just get gazebos and go into the car park in the same leisure centre.
"There's a lot more trouble now because everyone comes to link up in one place, it gets heated and needs dispersing. It feels less secure, less safe.
"You can't really stand outside and talk to a young person about what they want to do in life or anything that's going on at home. It's much better in a safe environment."
The local Liberal Democrat Councillor for Pentwyn and Llanederyn Joe Carter said the plans were "simply not good enough"
"We see a much smaller pool, less community facilities, and it's simply not going to give the community what they need."
"We see large scale investment happening in other parts of the city, not least the city centre, and out here we are seeing some investment but it comes with strings attached such as bringing in private companies and losing facilities."
"We're not just seeing Cardiff Rugby but Padel Tennis as well. That's going to take way over half the existing pool."
In a statement, Cardiff Council say costs have to be considered to make the centre sustainable.
Councillor Jennifer Burke said: “Local leisure facilities mean a lot to the communities they serve, but they have to be sustainable.
“Based on historic levels of usage, there was a strong case to close Pentwyn Leisure Centre altogether – the Council has always been, and remains, committed to re-opening Pentwyn Leisure Centre, but when the previous pool was open, the centre was costing around £700,000 per annum to run, making it the poorest performer of all the city’s leisure centres.
"This is no longer sustainable, and unless a more viable operating model is found, it would potentially threaten the operation of all of the city’s leisure centres.”
“Cardiff Rugby’s presence as a tenant is essential to ensure the Council is in a position to invest in the centre, as they will make a substantial commitment to paying back our proposed £4 million investment in the facility, over time.
“As well as continuing to have access to a swimming pool and use all of the primary facilities at the centre, the community will also benefit from access to a new 3G pitch, subject to planning permission.
"This pitch will be used by Cardiff Rugby at times when most 3G pitches across the city are under-utilised and be available for community use at all peak times, including weekday evenings and weekends.
“Our recent consultation on the plans received around 700 responses and within the constraints of the budget allocated to the project, the views expressed by the community are shaping the final designs. The Council has never been in a position to provide the community with a wish list, but as a result of feedback in the consultation we are reviewing the size of the new pool, a community room will now be provided, and padel tennis has been removed from the proposals."
“Leisure centres across Wales and the rest of the UK are currently facing significant challenges, with many having already closed or facing closure.
"Our plans to re-open and invest in Pentwyn Leisure Centre buck that trend and will ensure that the facility remains sustainable, and there for the local community, for years to come."
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