Caerphilly leisure centres face uncertainty as plan backed
Leisure centres in Caerphilly county face an uncertain future after the council voted to press ahead with a controversial 10-year plan.
Cabinet member Nigel George said the aim was to get "more people, more active, more often".
Campaigners have claimed that up to four of the county's 10 leisure centres face closure under the plans.
Council leader Dave Poole accused them of "mischief-making" and not seeing the "true value" of the strategy.
Former Labour leader Lord Kinnock joined a protest march earlier in November to save leisure centres in Pontllanfraith and Cefn Fforest, which he represented when he was MP for Islwyn.
More than 5,500 people have signed a petition defending the two sites, with campaigners also fearing for leisure centres in New Tredegar and Ystrad Mynach, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
It follows publication of the council's draft 10-year strategy for sport and active recreation, which said investment would be focused on four "high class, strategic multi-functional facilities", while other leisure centres would be managed by others or close.
However, sport and leisure facilities manager Jeff Reynolds told councillors that no decisions had been made to close any particular leisure centre.
Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge - who had presented the petition to the council in October - told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday he had "major concerns" about the health and well-being of residents if closures were to happen.
Reacting to the plan, Mr Poole said: "We want to ensure we can deliver positive outcomes against a backdrop of very difficult financial pressures.
"It is bitterly disappointing that some people have used the strategy for mischief-making about specific leisure centre closures rather than recognising its true value for our whole county borough and its future generations."
Stephen Nash, 59, from Gilfach Bargoed, told BBC Wales he would be very disappointed if Cefn Fforest leisure centre closed.
Although Heolddu is closer, he said it was easier for him to get to Cefn Fforest on the bus.
"I used to go swimming there several times a week until I came down with bowel cancer two years ago," he said.
"I'm ready to go back now, to build up my stomach muscles.
"It's just ten minutes on the bus. I'd have to take two buses to Newbridge and Caerphilly is half an hour away.
"It would be a terrible shame if the pool at Cefn Fforest closed."