THE proposal for a new swimming pool as part of the Westminster Lodge regeneration scheme has created a wave of anger among residents who fear the district council is squandering millions on an inadequate facility.

A brand new design for the leisure centre at the bottom of Holywell Hill includes plans for an eight-lane main pool, capable of accommodating up to 142 swimmers at one time.

Campaigners have urged the council to review their plans and return to the drawing board before spending millions of pounds on a new sports complex, which they say offers marginally improved facilities.

The replacement pool, campaigners argue, will accommodate only nine extra swimmers than the existing facility - a capacity unlikely to meet the demand of a growing population.

In a bid to mobilise opposition, retired planning manager David Gilroy, of Park Avenue, St Albans, has launched a site, named Pool Too Small, urging residents to share their objections to the recommended development.

Mr Gilroy, who has been a frequent visitor at the sports centre for 37 years and has taught his three sons and granddaughter to swim in its pool, said: "We are enthusiastic at the prospect of a new facility, but we believe that the current plan barely specifies enough main pool water space for the district's existing needs, let alone sufficient space to meet ever increasing demand over the coming decades. "It's going to be overcrowded and people are going to be turned away at peak times. This is the only chance we have in 40 years to get it right and the council have got it wrong. The answer is please go back to the drawing board with the experts and reassess the size of the pool.

"The council is squandering money on a pool which is unfit for purpose."

Backing the campaign, Roma Mills, Labour parliamentary candidate for St Albans, said: "We have to remember that Bricket Wood Sports Centre is being closed and there are still no concrete proposals for replacement facilities in the south of the district. This means there is going to be even greater pressure on Westminster Lodge, yet the proposed pool is shorter than the existing one and will provide next to nothing in terms of extra capacity.”

Diving facilities were also cut as part of the regeneration scheme, forcing the long established St Albans Diving Club to sever its 40 year association with the city and relocate to a sports complex in Hemel Hempstead.

Councillor Mills added: "These are hugely popular features of the current Westminster Lodge, particularly with children. The demand for school places shows just how quickly the numbers of young people are growing in St Albans, and there is already a real shortage of things for them to do. As well as meeting the demand for swimming space, we should also be keeping the fun in Westminster Lodge.”

But the council insist money will be well spent on a leisure complex boasting sufficient facilties.

Richard Shwe, head of culture and community development for St Albans District Council, said: “The new Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre will host a variety of sports in order to appeal to a wide selection of the community and not simply provide a replacement swimming pool.

“The plans for the leisure centre and the mix of facilities were put together following a feasibility study which analysed local need and the availability of other facilities elsewhere.

"The current plans are in line with that assessment of need, while availability of facilities has in fact increased locally. For example, new leisure facilities, with swimming pools, have been built in Watford.

“It is essential that the new leisure centre in St Albans provides value for money. This means offering maximum benefit to the community at an affordable price which we believe a 25-metre pool with eight lanes will achieve.”