The Abergavenny Lido Group has slammed Monmouthshire County Council for its “lack of communication” regarding a project that could be a “huge asset” to the community.
Over the last four years, a group of volunteers have worked tirelessly in their bid to reopen the open-air swimming pool in Abergavenny’s Bailey Park.
But the plans have come to a halt because the county council has ignored requests to sanction the project.
British lidos have undergone a huge resurgence in recent years, with many having a new lease of life breathed into them.
However, Wales falls short on the scale with only the Lido Ponty in Pontypridd being a viable option for those who want to indulge in an outdoor swim, and they have been very successful, leading to long queues on sunny days.
An in-depth Feasibility Study for the Abergavenny project was completed in November last year, with the Lido Group exploring all options and considering the pros and cons of an outdoor lido.
Although the economic climate is challenging, the group believes a return of an open-air pool to Abergavenny is possible and would not pose a threat to the indoor pool attached to King Henry VIII School.
The Abergavenny Lido Group have previously made the point: “We want to bring a public pool that will provide alternative and complementary choices to those that already exist. Returning the lido to Bailey Park would enhance the area and not act in direct conflict with the indoor facility attached to King Henry VIII School. Indoor and outdoor pools can work together to bring a wider choice of leisure activities.
The town was once home to a very popular open-air swimming pool – used and loved by generations of local people from the 1930s – until it was closed in the 1990s. We want to make it even better, and this time the pool would be heated for year-round use.”
Chair of the Committee, George Foster said this week: “An Abergavenny facility would tap into the growing demand for outdoor swimming, which is great exercise for people of all ages. It can help people get or stay in shape, and the benefits also extend to mental health.
“In addition, the Lido would provide a further attraction for tourists and people visiting the Abergavenny Food and Cycling Festivals.
“And a viable restaurant or café could operate throughout the day and through the year. This would increase footfall to the park, which in turn could encourage other groups to use the park facility regularly.”
Despite the enthusiasm locals have shown towards the project through online and face-to-face petitions and donations, the Group have not been able to make any substantial progress due to Monmouthshire County Council’s lack of communication.
“We have hit a brick wall,” Mr Foster said.
“We know there are problems, but they are not insurmountable. There are plenty of funding options and lots of enthusiasm; 95% of the people we have spoken to are very supportive about the project. For instance, our Study showed a potential shortfall (depending on some scenarios) though there are many ways we can overcome these as the next phase of our business plan will show. But the Council seem to have got it in their heads that they could end up with a white elephant.
“We are not able to move without the support of MCC. We are not looking for, and will not receive, any funding from MCC either.
“It all comes down to something very simple. We need what’s called a Letter of Comfort from the Council, simply confirming that they are happy for us to reuse the land for the open-air swimming pool.
“At first they were keen to support the project, but if they back out now we will have lost valuable time when we could have been looking for an alternative space. This has been going on for almost a year now. No one will respond to our enquiries. We have bent over backwards to hold meetings with MCC, but emails and letters have been ignored, officers have left, meetings have then been set up and then cancelled. It is very frustrating – all we want is a chance to move the project forward.”
The Chronicle has reached out to Monmouthshire County Council for comment.