HUNDREDS of protesters, including a Labour peer, gathered on the anniversary of the Chartist uprising to march against the closure of leisure centres.

Angry marchers descended on Blackwood town centre in a show of force that organisers hope will force Caerphilly County Borough Council decision makers to change their minds.

The local authority wants to maintain four ‘strategic’ leisure centres in Caerphilly town, Risca, Newbridge and in Aberbargoed or Bargoed to service the entire borough.

But the plan means leisure centres in Cefn Fforest, Pontllanfraith, New Tredegar and Sue Noakes face closure as local schools would be unable to assume management of the sites.

So far, more than 5,500 people have signed a petition against the potential closure of several of the leisure centres.


Yesterday, 179 years on from the Chartist revolt that saw thousands march on Newport from Blackwood, hundreds took to the streets of the town to voice their displeasure.

They were joined by former Labour leader and MP for Islwyn Lord Neil Kinnock, former Ilswyn MP Lord James Donnelly Touhig and the current Islwyn Labour MP Chris Evans.

Organiser Dean Jones said the turn out was "incredible" and said he was proud the marchers had "made their voice heard."


"The march shows the strength of feeling about this decision," said march organiser Dean Jones, 45, from Blackwood.

"People clearly feel strongly about it. Some of these people will have used these facilities all their lives. We had people of all ages with us, from children aged under six-years-old to older people who still sue the facilities for classes.

"After yesterday's march we're hopeful that the council will finally listen to the people. On the anniversary of the Chartist's march the passion was definitely there, and history was being channelled.

"Hopefully we have shown the strength of feeling in the community. They need to listen to what this march is telling them - these facilities mean a lot to us.

"We've been ignored in the past. Ignored at consultations and when we've put forward petitions. But surely they can't ignore this."

But before yesterday's march, the leader of the council, Cllr Dave Poole, warned that such protests were "not the answer."


Cllr Dave Poole added “I admire anyone who feels strongly about a topic or issue, and the notion of a ‘peaceful protest’ or march in demonstration against that issue is our right.

“However, in this case, there is no public liability insurance in place, and as such, the council cannot arrange any temporary road closures for the event.

South Wales Argus:

“Our residents and any other interested parties have had ample opportunity to have their say. We also held a total of 11 drop in sessions for people to speak to us about our draft strategy. Despite this, a total of just 46 people attended”.

A final report on the strategy will go before a special meeting of the council's regeneration and environment scrutiny committee on November 8 before going to cabinet on November 14 for a final decision.