THE district council gave itself planning permission for a £26 million new leisure centre and swimming pool tonight, brushing aside determined and concerted opposition.

Labour and Conservative councillors joined the Pool Too Small campaign, residents and the St Albans Civic Society in a vain attempt to derail or at least delay the Lib Dem council's plans.

After a bad tempered and impassioned debate, the planning referrals committee approved the cabinet's plan to rebuild the ageing Westminster Lodge leisure centre on another part of the Verulamium Park site.

Campaigners convinced the proposed eight-lane 25-metre pool is far too small hoped to defeat the project in the planning process, giving their own more ambitious scheme a chance of realisation.

Opposition protests that the application had been prejudiced by official council literature, and should be delayed until after next week's elections, were swatted away as party politics consumed the supposedly non partisan committee.

David Gilroy, who has led the campaign for a larger pool, said after the meeting: "I am bitterly disappointed, both in the decision and the way it was arrived at.

"We had a committee chairman (Councillor Chris Brazier) giving a casting vote to approve an application made by a cabinet he is a member of.

"That is a disgrace."