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Terror attack safety fears raised over Commonwealth Games aquatics centre site

By Jamie Brassington | Smethwick | Commonwealth Games | Published:

The planned Commonwealth Games aquatics centre may not have enough measures to protect itself from a terror attack, according to police.

Artist impressions of how the new centre would look. Picture: Sandwell Council

West Midlands Police has objected to the planned site in Smethwick which will become a new leisure centre after the 2022 games.

The force has made an objection to Sandwell Council over fears about a lack of protection from terrorist attacks.

Sandwell’s planning committee is due to decide whether to approve the planning application at a meeting tonight.

The state-of-the-art facility, earmarked for Londonderry Playing Fields, would cost £60million to build and host swimming events at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games.

In the planning report, West Midlands Police has raised concerns about the lack of security in the building’s initial design.

The force has called for reassurances that the issue of security is considered.

West Midlands Police and Sandwell Council declined to elaborate on what security measures they were looking at.

Londonderry playing fields which will be the site of the aquatics centre for the Commonwealth Games

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However Sandwell leisure boss Bill Gavan said the council will work with police on “improving safety measures”.

Councillor Gavan, a cabinet member for leisure and the Commonwealth Games, said: “The planning application relates specifically to the long-term use of the facility as a leisure centre for Sandwell – not as a venue for the Commonwealth Games.

“If approved, the leisure centre will serve the people of Sandwell and beyond for decades to come.

“We will continue to work with police, who are a member of our project board, to make sure appropriate safety measures are in place for the venue as a leisure centre.

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“In preparation for this facility being used as the swimming and diving venue for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as with all official venues, detailed operational plans for all aspects of the Games, including safety and security measures, will be put in place by the Birmingham 2022 Organising Committee and these will be designed and implemented in conjunction with West Midlands Police and other relevant partners.”

Residents have also objected to the project and are fighting to save the green space where the centre has been earmarked. A total of 240 people have signed a petition which is currently being investigated by officers.

Sandwell Council leader Steve Trow insists the aquatics centre has also received a lot of support. And he vowed that objections from residents will be listened to.

He said: "We will always listen to any reasonable objections. Of course, there is a mechanism for making those objections.

"The work that was done on the consultation for the aquatics centre, in terms of the responses, it was strongly supported. But I recognise there may be a number of people that may be anxious about it."

If the plans are approved, the aquatic centre would host elite athletes from around the world during the international sporting tournament in three years time.

The centre would have a 50m Olympic sized swimming pool, 25m diving pool, studio pool and 1,000 spectator seats.

There would also be a dry-dive facility 108-station gym, 25-station ladies-only gym, three activity studios, eight-course sports hall, indoor cycling studio, a sauna, steam room, 300 car parking spaces, a football pitch and changing facilities.

Jamie Brassington

By Jamie Brassington
Senior Multi-Media Journalist - @JamieB_Star

Senior reporter at the Express & Star. Contact me at jamie.brassington@expressandstar.co.uk.

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