Wales

Pontllanfraith leisure centre closure plans quashed

Pontllanfraith Leisure Centre Image copyright Caerphilly County Borough Council
Image caption The council had planned to close the centre last year but deferred the decision

Campaigners are celebrating a "significant victory" after a judge quashed a council's decision to close Pontllanfraith leisure centre.

Caerphilly council claimed closing the centre could save £120,000 a year and £500,000 in repairs.

However Mr Justice Jonathan Swift ruled it had failed in its equality duty when deciding to close the facility.

Campaigner Shane Williams, who took the case to the High Court in Cardiff, said he was "delighted".

Four of the five grounds for Mr Williams' challenge failed.

However Mr Justice Swift agreed that the council had not met its obligations under the Equality Act 2010 when taking the decision to close the centre.

This particularly related to the greater difficulties that older and disabled people would likely have reaching alternative facilities.

Mr Swift said: "It is striking that in 2019, the position of elderly and disabled persons was not addressed in terms."

Image copyright LDRS
Image caption Campaigners say they are happy a judge has quashed a council decision to shut a leisure centre

Caerphilly council said it would prepare an equalities impact assessment on the closure of the centre before any further decision was made.

Council leader Dave Poole said: "We will take steps to ensure that the correct procedures are followed in relation to future decisions by cabinet where there are equalities implications."

Mr Williams, 51, said he was not very confident the council would keep the facility open, but hoped they would "reflect" on the matter.

"It is a significant victory, not just for the campaigners but for the whole community," he said.

"We have to see how the cabinet responds. We would like to think the cabinet will finally listen to the community.

"They spent a lot of money going to court and they could have spent that keeping it open."

Image copyright Chris Evans
Image caption Former Labour Party leader and Islwyn MP Neil Kinnock (third left) joined protesters, including Chris Evans MP (second right) against the closure

Islwyn MP Chris Evans paid tribute to the "tireless efforts" of the community.

He added: "[This] ruling will cost even more money. To a council looking to making savings, the decision of the cabinet was a costly mistake which could have easily been avoided if only they had listened to the views of the community."

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