The fate of South Norwood swimming pool was effectively sealed last week when the council upheld its controversial decision to refurbish rather than rebuild it.

Dozens of protesters were at the town hall for a meeting last Tuesday evening. They handed over a 3,000 signature petition as part of a two-month campaign to persuade the council to change its mind.

However, they were left deflated when it was announced the refurbishment plan would go ahead. They were also angered by the fact that they had to wait until after 10pm for the pool debate.

Liz Ismail, communications officer for the People for Portland Road community group, which organised a series of pool protests, said: "Everyone who signed the petitions did so because they are disappointed by the decision of the new council leadership to cancel plans for a new leisure centre on the site of the pool without any consultation with local people."

She added: "The meeting in general was dominated by comments from the Conservative councillors about their recent victory, time which would have been better spent getting on with council business for the benefit of taxpayers."

The new Conservative administration dropped plans to build a brand new swimming pool in South Norwood after the local election in May, instead opting to refurbish the existing facility at a reduced cost of £4million.

The refurbishment is expected to give the pool an extra 30 years of life and the council has defended the decision, insisting the £6million saving can be used for modernising facilities elsewhere.

Tim Brechin, who spearheaded the Save South Norwood Sports Project, also attended the full council meeting last week.

He too was angered by the decision.

"So far between two local groups, Save South Norwood Sports Project and People for Portland Road, we have collected 3,000 signatures against the cancellation of the new sports centre.

"Those 3,000 signatures represent more than 10 per cent of the population of South Norwood and the council is ignoring their voices. If this is how they behave on this issue, what future does Croydon face while they are still in control?

"The councillors kept saying that the revised plans are looking fantastic, but none were there to be viewed."

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Hollands said: "I understand the disappointment but Croydon can't afford to build a new leisure centre."

Councillor Sue Bennett, one of the ward councillors for South Norwood, added: "To say it was a difficult decision is undoubted and to say it was the right decision is under much debate. However the council can't afford it."

Signatures are still being collected by the community groups and another public meeting to discuss the issue will be held on Tuesday, August 1, at St Mark's Church, Albert Road, South Norwood, at 7.30pm.

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