Councillors have given a lukewarm reception to plans to build a £7m outdoor swimming pool in Abergavenny’s Bailey Park

At a presentation held last week. Amanda Harwood, vice chairman of Abergavenny Lido Group, met with councillors to discuss getting the ambitious project off the ground, and met with general support for the idea, but no firm commitment from the cash-strapped council.

County councillors at the Bryn y Cym committee meeting last Wednesday were keen to lend their support to the campaign, but underscored the financial realities involved in a proposal which would likely run towards the £7m mark.

Mrs Harwood outlined ALG’s plans, and insisted that the group was not asking for financial backing, but saw the meeting as the beginning of dialogue between ALG and both Abergavenny town, and Monmouthshire councils.

The group said it was not asking the council for money to build, or maintain, the proposed 50m outdoor pool but was looking for permission to apply for first-stage funding and feasibility studies which in a boost to ALG’s ambitions was granted.

Mrs Harwood told the meeting that the proposed facility could feature a restaurant and coffee shop to help the drive the local economy, whilst also addressing the ongoing vandalism issues which blight Bailey Park by increasing footfall to the area. ??

“This would have a knock-on effect for local businesses,” she said. “At this stage, this is a vision. Right now, we are seeking permission to move forward with applications for funding.”

The ALG’s proposal, outlined in a document include a 50m pool, a learner pool, changing facilities, and restaurant. The ambitious plans could even play host to the World Ice Water Championships.

Councillor Tudor Thomas said he supported the idea, and was ‘happy’ for it to move to the next stage, but questioned the financial reality of building such a venue when Abergavenny Leisure Centre ‘struggles’ to keep its doors open without council assistance. ??“I think it is a good idea, and the campaigners have done well to get things moving. However, I cannot see Monmouthshire County Council dipping its hands in its pockets.

“Money is tight and all councils are being forced to make savings.” ??

Acknowledging the nascent stage of planning, Councillor Giles Howard said he would be happy to ‘move the bid forward’ which was also backed by Councillor Sheila Woodhouse who underlined the project’s tentative status. ??Teslin Davies, a prominent member of the Lido group, stressed that the project was in the earliest stage, and campaigners were focused on determining its viability.

?“Before we move forward, we need permission from the landlord, which is Monmouthshire County Council. This meeting is the first step. What we are looking to do next is a range of options looking at the feasibility of a lido.” she said.

The bid to build a lido at Abergavenny’s Bailey Park follows a campaign first born on social media page Abergavenny Voice.

Support for the idea was then backed by what ALG claims is a ‘resurgence’ in outdoor swimming, stoked by the record-breaking heat of summer.

One example giving ballast to the idea is that of Lido Ponty, which reopened in Pontypridd in 2015 after closing for nearly 30 years. Lido Ponty cost an estimated £6.3m to completely refurbish, and is currently subsidised by Rhondda Cynon Taff Council.

Abergavenny’s original outdoor pool was built in 1938 and open during in the summer months only. Monmouth Borough Council closed it in the early 1980s. A town council and volunteer effort keep the pool open lasted a few years before it permanently closed.

Councillor Bob Greenland, at MCC said, “We have agreed to offer practical support to the Abergavenny Lido Group but we have made its members aware that resources to run existing services are extremely limited and that also, alongside the proposed rebuilding of King Henry VIII School we plan to remodel the site’s leisure facilities.

“ Consequently, the group would have to seek funds from sources other than those provided by the local authority.”??