CAMPAIGNERS have failed to convince the district council to rethink its plans for a swimming pool in St Albans.

Cabinet members at an emergency meeting last night unanimously endorsed the existing Westminster Lodge Scheme, rejecting a bid by the Pool Too Small campaign to expand the proposed new pool from eight lanes to ten.

In response to campaigners' concerns that the pool fails to meet the demands of a growing population, the council has pledged to open up existing facilities, such as school pools in the area, to the public.

Speaking after the meeting, David Gilroy, who has led the campaign for a larger pool, said: "I'm bitterly disappointed. I think we can say the blinkers were on and the ear plugs were in.

"I think they were saying my mind is made up - don't confuse me with facts.

"They have an overload hanging over them from the moment that facility is built - I don't think they have a clue.

"There's no vision here that's why I, at 70 years of age, have stood up.

"I'm thinking of our children and citizens that are yet to be born - this is short changing them all." Mr Gilroy gave a presentation to support his view that the proposed eight lane 25 metre pool the council proposes in a rebuilt Westminster Lodge sports centre will be unable to cope with demand.

But the council's scheme was defended by project manager Julie Simpson, who argued that there was a substantial increase in overall water space if the "learner" and "confidence" pools were included.

She disputed Mr Gilroy's demand projections, arguing the popularity of swimming was declining, and estimating that the number of people participating in the sport would continue to fall following the withdrawal of free swimming intiatives at the end of the month.

Anthony Rowlands, portfolio holder for sport and leisure, said: "We listened carefully to the Pool Too Small campaigners but their idea of a 25 x 10 lane pool would fly in the face of all the advice received from national experts by the council.

"There is, after all, only one such pool in the rest of the country.

"Equally seriously, changing the plans would have landed residents with a bill of well in excess of a million pounds. Lengthy delays runs the risk of missing out on a highly competitive period for the construction industry which could reduce the bill for the council. It would have been irresponsible to have altered direction in the way the campaign wanted. Now we must move ahead with a project which has strong public support and will deliver a vitally needed flag-ship leisure centre for the city and district."

Leader of the cabinet Robert Donald added: "This is unashamedly not the best that could be had because we can't afford the very best but it's a compromise. It's a compromise that will meet a great range of leisure needs and sport activities."

He added: "I would like a larger pool but we just have to be aware of the economic climate that we're in."