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Councillors urged to approve 50 metre swimming pool plans, despite potential threat to football club's academy

Coventry Editorial 17th Aug, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

COUNCILLORS are being urged to approve plans to build a new 50 metre swimming pool at the Alan Higgs Centre, despite fears it could further affect the future of Coventry City Football Club’s under-threat youth academy at the centre.

At a meeting later this month, councillors are being encouraged to throw their support behind the development which would see a new 50m, eight-lane pool built on the site of the indoor football pitch at the centre in Allard Way.

The development would also include spectator seating for up to 500 people, a swimming development education room and office, and extensions to the existing fitness suite and separate function room space.

A rugby development education room would also be built to complement Wasps’ proposed new training centre to be built on the football club’s purpose-built existing academy facilities at the centre.

Coventry Council boasts the plans would allow the City of Coventry Swimming Club to keep its Beacon Club status.

It also argues the proposals satisfy its promise to develop accessible and quality sport and leisure facilities and keep a 50m pool in the city, after councillors closed the Grade II listed sports centre and 50 metre pool on Fairfax Street in September 2014.

Jane Nickerson, interim CEO of Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), welcomed the plans and said they would benefit both the local community and the City of Coventry Swimming Club.

She added: “We have been working with Coventry City Council over the past two years to help identify the swimming needs of the city.

“We will continue to do so to ensure the facilities meet all the necessary criteria for Coventry Swimming Club and all swimmers in the city.”

However, while the council’s official announcement lauds the benefits the new swimming pool will bring to the City of Coventry Swimming Club and rugby club Wasps, it makes no mention of Coventry City Football Club’s prized Category 2 status academy.

The academy, which has been at the Alan Higgs Centre for more than ten years, receives £650,000 annual funding from the football authorities – offering training facilities to city youngsters and developing future footballing stars such as James Maddison and Callum Wilson.

But now councillors are being asked to approve using £10.5 million and give the green light to plans which could affect its future.

In response to questions from the Observer over the future of the academy in light of the plans for the swimming pool, a council spokesperson simply replied: “We do not feel that proposals for a 50m pool will threaten the future of the Sky Blues Academy.”

Councillors will discuss the plans at a meeting of the Cabinet on August 30, with a report going to Full Council on September 6.

The football club was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.

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