Plans to build an Aquatics Centre for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games have been given the go-ahead by Sandwell councillors, despite a last-minute protest.
The Council’s Planning Committee approved proposals last month for the new £60 million ($78 million/€70 million) leisure centre at Londonderry Playing Fields in Smethwick.
At a recent full Sandwell Council meeting, councillors gave permission to depart from the local plan, meaning the site can be used for construction of the leisure centre.
It means work on Sandwell Aquatics Centre will begin on-site later this year with preparation starting this summer.
Prior to the meeting, however, a group of around 20 demonstrators protested outside the Council building in a final effort to persuade councillors to vote no .
The "Save Londonderry Playing Fields" group had wanted to preserve the green space where the facility is set to be built.
"Londonderry Fields is a very small but lovely little park but it's convenient for the Council to build the Aquatics Centre on," protester Sue Turner, a resident who lives close to the proposed site, was reported as saying by Birmingham Live.
"Now, I’m not against the centre.
"I think it's a marvellous thing for the people of Sandwell but it's entirely in the wrong place.
"There are so many brownfield sites they could choose to build on but instead they are choosing to destroy this little green oasis and once it’s gone, it’s gone."
According to Birmingham Live, the demonstrators also claim traffic congestion and vehicle emissions from the site will add to air pollution in the area.
Plans for the Aquatics Centre have now been fully approved! ⬇️ https://t.co/UXUkWyb4aP— Birmingham 2022 (@birminghamcg22) April 10, 2019
The leisure centre is expected to be completed by 2021 and will host the swimming and diving events during Birmingham 2022.
A 2016 review of Sandwell’s leisure facilities recognised the poor state of swimming centres in the Smethwick area, identifying the need for a new leisure centre.
The Council examined a number of potential sites for the centre, taking into consideration factors including location, size, legal constraints and the ability for the scheme to be completed on time.
This exercise saw Londonderry Playing Fields identified as the only suitable site.
Plans include a 50 metres Olympic-sized competition swimming pool, a 25m diving pool and a studio pool.
The leisure centre will have 1,000 permanent spectator seats with additional seating to be added on a temporary basis for Birmingham 2022.
It will also boast a dry-dive facility, a 108-station gym, a 25-station women’s-only gym, three activity studios, an eight-court sports hall, an indoor cycling studio, a sauna/steam room and a café.
Improvement work will be carried out to the rest of the site which will feature an urban park, football pitch with new changing facilities, a children’s play area and on-site parking.
The new centre will be built by Wates Construction and run by Sandwell Leisure Trust.
The plans were approved last month despite various groups, most notably the police, objecting.
The police had raised concerns regarding the apparent lack of "secure design principles and anti-terrorism measures", while according to local newspaper the Express and Star, more than 200 people signed a petition against the proposal.