THE sports minister has waded into a row over plans to demolish Pitsea swimming pool.
Hugh Robertson, Tory MP and Government sports minister, has written to Gavin Callaghan – Labour councillor for Pitsea North West – to say Sport England want to see a detailed assessment of the impact closing the pool will have.
Campaigners are desperately trying to save the pool which is due to be bulldozed to make way for a Morrison’s supermarket.
They have already gained 3,000 signatures on a petition.
Mr Callaghan said: “Over the last six months Basildon Council has portrayed Sport England’s position as being fully supportive of the decision to knock down Pitsea pool. It is clear the council has misrepresented the position of Sport England.
“No decision on the future of the pool can be taken without a detailed report outlining the impact the closure will have on displaced users.”
In his letter, the minister said Sport England had been contacted about plans to demolish the pool in January this year and told Basildon Council it should “protect sport in the area”.
His letter added: “As you will see, Sport England did not recommend the council demolish the swimming pool.
“Sport England made it clear it objected to the lack of detail within the application about alternative arrangements for accommodating displaced users from the Pitsea swimming pool.”
The minister also called on the council to consult with users of Pitsea pool.
At a meeting last month pool user Malcolm Chapman presented a petition to the council against the pool’s demolition.
But cabinet members of the council’s leisure scrutiny committee voted against ordering an in-depth probe into the decision to demolish the pool.
Tony Ball, leader of Basildon Council, said his authority never asked Sport England if they would support closure, but instead if the borough had adequate provision for swimming.
He added: “Sport England would not want to support the closure of a facility, but they were asked if they would have any objection and they said they wouldn’t.
“Planning officers also asked them what their views was on swimming provision within the borough if Pitsea pool went, and their response was that there is provision within the borough.”