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New Commonwealth Games pool hailed as an asset despite loss of green space

By Jamie Brassington | Smethwick | Commonwealth Games | Published:

The £62 million Commonwealth Games aquatics centre could host major sporting events in the future, a council leader said today.

Workers on site as construction of the new Commonwealth Games pool gets started at Smethwick's Londonderry playing fields

It comes as groundwork is taking place ahead of construction of the state-of-the-art facility in Londonderry Playing Fields.

The water sports centre will host swimming diving events as part of the the Commonwealth Games taking place in Birmingham in 2022.

Council bosses view the aquatics centre as a coup with the Government funding 55 per cent of the project.

The pool at Smethwick's Londonderry playing fields will become a leisure centre after the Games

Councillor Maria Crompton, cabinet member for the Aquatics Centre, told the Express & Star: “The aquatics centre will serve the borough of Sandwell for years to come.

"It is a great asset to the local community. We might be able to host large competitions in the future also, such as diving and swimming competitions.”

She added: “The council wouldn’t have been able to fund the construction of such a wonderful facility without the help of government funding.”

What the Commonwealth Games Aquatics Centre will look like

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The aquatics centre will feature a 50m Olympic-sized swimming pool, a 25-metre diving pool and 5,000 spectator seats.

Some of the world’s best swimming stars will descend on Smethwick when the Commonwealth Games kick off in three years’ time.

The competition is also set to draw thousands of fans to the Black Country.

Councillor Crompton said she believed that could be a regular occurrence with a possibility that the aquatics centre could host future swimming competitions.

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Campaigners had voiced strong concerns about the loss of the Londonderry playing fields

The project has not been without controversy. Local residents opposed the project due to a loss of green space.

Eight letters of objection and a 219-strong petition were handed in to the council before planning permission was granted in April.

A protest was held on the steps of the council house during the meeting.

It came after former council leader Steve Trow said the council would listen to the concerns of residents.

A loss of green space is an issue for Sandwell Council bosses in general.

Another proposed project, for a £200m designer outlet on Lion Farm Playing Fields, Oldbury, has attracted the same calls from campaigners fighting those plans.

Meanwhile, a new £100,000 construction training hub next to the Commonwealth Games athletes’ village site was described as a “blessing” by students as it was formally unveiled.

The facility in Perry Barr, which has been funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority, will create about 400 job opportunities, including 100 apprenticeships, over the next few years.

It is already providing free construction training over a comprehensive 20-day course, covering skills ranging from driving dumper trucks to asbestos awareness.

Many of the new recruits will get to work on the opposite side of Wellhead Lane helping to transform the former university campus into the athletes’ village – and then 1,400 permanent homes after – while others will be set up to take on jobs elsewhere in the city, including projects such as HS2.

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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