Protests at plans for new leisure centre

An impression of the swimming pool at the new Craigavon Leisure Centre.
An impression of the swimming pool at the new Craigavon Leisure Centre.

Swimming clubs across the borough have united to protest at plans for the new Craigavon Leisure Centre.

A protest is to take place late this afternoon prior to the monthly meeting of Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council.

Lurgan, Portadown and Banbridge swimming clubs who regularly use the current facilities in each of the towns have joined forces in a bid to halt the current layout of the propposed centre.

They believe the proposed layout of 50m by 17m is inadequate to cater for the numbers expected to use the swimming pool and is not future-proof.

They claim a 50m x 25m pool similar to the centre in Bangor is required.

Conor McKeown of Portadown Swimming Club said they hope to lobby councillors before they go into the meeting to ask them to halt the current centre plans.

He explained that they have met with councillors from all the political parties who have understood their concerns.

“We have hit a brick wall when it comes to the officers on the council,” he said.

“We want the £30m to be spent wisely on the centre so that it usable at all times,” he said.

They have all cancelled their training programme tonight to be at Craigavon Civic Centre for the protest just before the 6pm meeting.

The three clubs have expressed concerns over the pool layout particularly that there will be an overall capacity loss.

They have also been critical of the lack of engagement with local stakeholders in the design phase.

Mr McKeown said when the centre opens and the other three centres in Lurgan, Portadown and Brownlow close the new centre will struggle to cope with the volume of swimmers.

He added: “When we (LASC PASC and LMSC) lobbied councilors on the project design board we were informed that they had been told that we had been consulted. This is incorrect.

“None of the promised workshops have taken place with the stakeholders, no consultation on their requirements have been taken into consideration. This is normally done after concept design stage (end Stage 2/C).

“At the ‘Stop and Think’ stage going from Craigavon to ABC this would have been a perfect time to have consultations with stakeholders and staff. The design is now ready for a planning submission and therefore at a very late stage to take into consideration comments from any of the stakeholders on better design, currents needs and future needs.

“It seems that only changes which do not affect the external envelope can be considered.

“We now feel undervalued as stakeholders and ratepayers.”