A NEW swimming pool for Blaenavon would cost

around £3million according to an independent

consultant reports HANNAH MLATEM.

Independent consultants Knight, Kavanagh and

Page, attended a special Blaenavon Town Council

meeting this week which was attended by action

group Blaenavon Leisure and Swimming

Troubleshooters (BLAST).

The consultant, jointly appointed with the town

council was engaged to provide estimates for building

and running a new pool in Blaenavon on a community

enterprise basis.

A spokesman for Torfaen said the findings

concluded, "Unmet demand for swimming in Torfaen

was lower than the Welsh average - funding bodies

such as the Sports Council for Wales were therefore

very unlikely to fund a new pool because other areas

of Wales had a greater need. The demographic profile

of Blaenavon was unlikely to attract or support a hotel

or private health and fitness operator with a

swimming pool.

"The pool would run at an annual loss of at least

£180,000. This loss did not include the cost of re-

paying any loan to fund the building of the pool.

"Repayments on the cost of building a pool are

estimated at £275,000 based on borrowing over 20


However BLAST, which was set up to fight the

closure of the pool and leisure centre welcomed the

results and said they confirmed a need for such

facilities in the town.

Blaenavon Town Council is now considering the

report's findings and how it might take the initiative

forward with the help of the community and BLAST.

"Although the report says unmet leisure demand

in Torfaen is lower than the Welsh average, it also

highlights the fact that Blaenavon is a more isolated

community with less access than every other town or

village in the county.

"It says that 70 per cent of the population of

Torfaen can walk to a leisure facility within 20 minutes

– but that excludes the whole of the north of the

county," said BLAST Chairman and former Blaenavon

Leisure Centre Manager John Beavan.

"That totally endorses the fact that we should

have a leisure facility in Blaenavon, and then the

whole of the county will be able to walk to a pool or

centre within 20 minutes.

"The report says that the north of the county

borough is considered to be under-provided for in

comparison to the south, and consultation with user

groups suggested that Pontypool Leisure Centre was

becoming over-subscribed and schools and clubs

could not access facilities at the most appropriate


"It adds that the population of Blaenavon is

increasing with a number of new housing

developments planned, targeted at bringing young

families into the area, and school attendance figures

show that annual intake is increasing by 10 pupils.

"Furthermore, consultation suggests that

Blaenavon is developing as a tourist centre, which

impacts upon demand for leisure facilities."

Mr Beavan said the impact of the closure of the

Blaenavon pool has resulted in the community feeling

isolated and that it has had a negative impact on

other services in the town such as shops and the local


He said, "The report says, 'In summary, it is clear

that the resident population within the catchment of a

new Blaenavon swimming pool is more acutely

deprived than the wider population of Torfaen and is

more likely to face ongoing challenges in relation to

access to services, poor health and higher levels of


He said he was happy that the feasibility study

validated a business plan drawn up by BLAST when

the action group had appealed to Torfaen Council to

allow it take over the running of the pool.

"It says that the pool would run at a deficit, we

knew that – as we also know that there are very few

pools that make a profit. Most of them are subsidised.

Torfaen Council funded the consultation merely so

that they could say 'we told you so'. But this has

backfired on them in that it enables BLAST to say: 'No

– we told you so.'"

Blaenavon Programme Manager, Graham Screen

said, "The report is a fair and independent assessment

of the situation. The consultant, jointly appointed with

the town council has over 18 years experience in the

leisure industry and spent time with the community

and BLAST determining their needs and looking at

their business case.

The report contains some cold, hard facts that

support the difficult decision taken by the council last


No council ever wants to remove a popular

community facility, but the pool was very costly to run

and the council has limited resources, which it will

invest in education and a much needed new school for

the town."