Sandwell Aquatics Centre 'great but in wrong place' say residents

Residents have slammed proposals for the new £60 million Sandwell Aquatics Centre – stating the site in the centre of a residential area is unsuitable for the scheme.

Concerns – residents Susan Turner and David Jones
Concerns – residents Susan Turner and David Jones

People have been invited to have their say on the proposed design and facilities for the new centre in Smethwick, which will be used for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Plans for the aquatics centre, on Londonderry Playing Fields, include a 50 metre Olympic-sized competition swimming pool, a 25m diving pool, a studio pool and 1,000 spectator seats.

An artist's impression overlooking the pool at Sandwell Aquatics Centre
An artist's impression of the centre

Alongside the swimming facilities, the centre will boast a dry-dive facility, gym, ladies-only gym, three activity studios, an eight-court sports hall, indoor cycling studio, sauna/steam room and café.

It will also include 450 on-site car parking spaces, a football pitch and changing facilities, an improved urban park and children’s play area.

Consultation

The first consultation event took place on Tuesday at St Mark's Church, in Thimblemill Road, where residents could discuss the proposals ahead of a planning application being submitted.

But many residents have said the site is completely unsuitable – and have urged Sandwell Council to look at other sites in the borough.

Londonderry Playing Fields, where the centre is planned

Susan Turner, who lives on St Mark's Road just a short walk away from the proposed site, said: "I personally think the new aquatics centre is a really good thing for the area – but they are proposing to build it in the wrong place.

"It is a shame to lose the Londonderry playing fields. I am sure there are other more suitable sites in Sandwell instead of taking away this little green space. It is such a great little park.

"It will also cause too much traffic disruption. There are a lot of brownfield sites in Sandwell that could be used instead.

"It is just completely in the wrong place – I am not against the aquatics centre or the Commonwealth Games, I just think it is being built in the wrong place."

'Completely wrong'

Keith Price, who lives about 100 metres from the Londonderry Playing Fields, said: "I think it is a brilliant idea in totally the wrong place. It is in the middle of a residential area.

"The infrastructure is residential. The roads around there are very narrow.

Keith Price lives around 100 metres from the playing field

"People who live there have had zero consultation on it. There was complete utter silence from the initial announcement until they pushed a flyer through the doors in October.

"Residents who live with their gardens backing onto the playing fields have had no update. It is completely wrong they can do this without consulting them.

The plans have been on display

"Why have they got to build on the playing fields, when Sandwell is covered in brownfield sites.

"If you have just bought a home overlooking the playing fields, you'll be looking at a car park floodlit until late at night and a massive building – people are not happy. I know plenty of residents who are unhappy."

Feedback

Councillor Bill Gavan, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for leisure and Commonwealth Games, said: “These consultation sessions are a great opportunity for people to come along and have a chat about our plans for the aquatics centre in Smethwick and talk through any concerns they have.

“It is good to get these sessions under way and we thank those who attended Tuesday’s event and we look forward to continuing to consult with residents on our plans.

Architect Russell Stevens, Councillor Carol Goult and Chris Jones from Sandwell Council

“The feedback on the designs and what facilities we’re planning to include was very positive.

“For those who felt the centre was a good idea but in the wrong place, we were able to explain that this is the only suitable site in this part of the borough, which is an area of Sandwell where residents have said they want modern, new facilities.

“The overwhelming number of responses we’ve received from residents living near to the site through our survey have been very positive about our proposals. People on social media have also been very excited about having these world-class facilities on their doorstep.”

Further consultation events will be held at St Mark's Church on January 8 between 5pm and 8pm, and January 10 between 9am and 5pm, and at the Dorothy Parkes Centre, in Church Road, on January 15 between 4pm and 6pm.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News