Campaigners call for inquiry into Sandwell Commonwealth Games aquatics centre

Campaigners opposed to a proposed £60 million aquatic centre for the 2022 Commonwealth Games are taking their fight to Whitehall.

An artist's impression of the Commonwealth Aquatic centre
An artist's impression of the Commonwealth Aquatic centre

The Save Londonderry Playing Fields Campaign is urging supporters to write to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, asking him to ‘call in’ the decision to grant planning permission.

It is the last roll of the dice for protesters after Sandwell Council gave the project its final seal of approval at a meeting earlier this month.

The authority says the centre will deliver a 50 metre Olympic-sized competition swimming pool plus a 108-station gym, an eight-court sports hall, indoor cycling studio, sauna/steam room and café which will be open to the public after the games.

Speaking before the meeting, Sue Turner, a local resident, said: “Londonderry fields is a very small but lovely little park but it’s convenient for the council to build the aquatic centre on.

“I’m not against the centre. I think it’s a marvellous thing for the people of Sandwell but its entirely in the wrong place.

“There are so many brownfield sites they could choose to build on but instead they are choosing to destroy this little green oasis and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

But the council passed the project with only one abstention.

Conservative and Green Party members are backing the protestors and highlighted the issue in their local election campaigns.

Campaigners are now pinning their hopes on what they say are flaws in the consultation process that they believe should be investigated.

Keith Price, a leading member of the group, has taken to social media to urge supporters to write to the Secretary of State asking for the review on safety grounds

Writing a ‘call to arms’ on Facebook, he said: ”There were various conditions attached to the decision, including the fact that they had not received any comments on the proposal from the Fire Brigade or the Ambulance Service – both of which (there) have to be severe doubts about the plans with (only) a single vehicle access on Londonderry Lane.”

Cllr Bill Gavan, cabinet member for leisure and Commonwealth Games, speaking after the council granted planning permission, said: “Residents in the Smethwick area told us they desperately wanted new leisure facilities and we can now start moving forward with our plans.”

Construction of the centre is expected to begin this summer.

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