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Swimming clubs delighted as council will reconsider size of new £30m pool

By Rebecca Black

Published 25/10/2016

Lurgan swimmer Oisin Maher joined other club members and swimmers from Portadown Swimming Club to protest outside Craigavon Civic Centre
Lurgan swimmer Oisin Maher joined other club members and swimmers from Portadown Swimming Club to protest outside Craigavon Civic Centre
A young swimmer joins the protest

Swimming clubs were celebrating last night after a council voted to rethink its plans for a new £30m new pool.

Instead of taking part in their scheduled training, swimmers took the plunge and held a protest outside Craigavon Civic Centre as Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon councillors arrived.

The 50m by 17m pool is planned for the shores on the Craigavon loughs - but many swimmers say that is far too small to cope with demand.

Many wore their club swimming caps as they waved banners which read "protect the future", "no reduction", "increase not decrease" and "plan for growth".

Swimming clubs in Portadown and Lurgan, as well as Lurgan Masters Swimming Club, have argued the smaller pool will be a catastrophic mistake.

They have contended the new pool needs to be 50m by 25m - similar to the Aurora pool in Bangor - to allow it to be divided into smaller sections of competition length that lots of different groups can use simultaneously.

The group said 17m lanes are not suitable because 25m is the recognised length for training, competitions and proficiency badges.

The council had been due last night to vote through the South Lakes Leisure Project on the 50m by 17m pool dimensions.

But instead they agreed to delay the decision to hear the case the swimming clubs are making.

Group spokesman Conor McKeown last night told the Belfast Telegraph they are delighted by what they have termed a "stay of execution".

"We are going to get the chance to present to the project board which will also be open to the entire council," he said.

"That's perfect and that's what we want so we can get our views and analysis out there and into the public domain."

The group has prepared a presentation which it has already shown to the four main political parties represented on the council to convince them to back their cause for a "stop and think phase".

They have said that the new pool needs to last up to 50 years.

They are concerned if the existing facilities in Portadown, Lurgan and Craigavon are closed there will not be enough pool time for all 20 stakeholder groups they have identified to be able to use it, as well as members of the public.

"It needs to be done correctly now to allow for expanding population and growth in the sport - which is the fastest growing sport right now," the group said.

The row comes just a few months after the Paralympic Games at which Co Down swimmer Bethany Firth became Team GB's most successful competitor scooping three golds and a silver medal.

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