A DECISION to close Pontllanfraith leisure centre was "unreasonably" made without being properly costed, a court has heard.

Caerphilly County Borough Council is defending a legal challenge against the closure, which has been been pursued by the authority since 2017.

Cabinet members deferred its proposals until the adoption of a 10-year sport and active recreation strategy, which promised investment in four strategic leisure centres, while others could close.


But the Administrative Court in Cardiff heard the cost of implementing the strategy was not known to senior councillors before it was passed in November 2018.

Christian Howells, presenting the case against the council, argued that officers did not make the strategy's efficiency clear to councillors or residents during a public consultation.

"The adoption of the strategy was unreasonable as it was made without knowing the costings," said Mr Howells.

"Costings should have been present at the outset in the overall strategy, and that is the flaw of the council's decision-making process.

"The cabinet didn't know if their chief financial officer would approve of the capital expenditure on the new sites."

The court also heard that the council failed to consider alternatives to closing Pontllanfraith, including the possibility of a community asset transfer (CAT) to a non-profit organisation.

Mr Howells said: "Officers dismissed this out of hand and said there had been no mention of CAT in consultation, which is incorrect.

"This meant cabinet did not have all the information required to make an informed decision."

Matthew Paul, on behalf of the council, said the strategy provided a "loose framework" within which the council can take secondary decisions, such as investing or closing leisure centres.

Accusations that the strategy failed to meet the council's statutory obligation to secure continuous improvement in its duties were also dismissed by Mr Paul.

"The strategy can't realistically be criticised as it's about efficiency and making best use of dwindling resources," he said.

"It intends to bring about measurable improvements to the health and wellbeing of people."

Mr Paul said there was an "enormous" amount of material available to allow cabinet members to make their decision, including the negative impacts on people with protected characteristics such as disability and age.

The court heard that 26 per cent of people living in Caerphilly county borough are registered disabled.

This was taken into account "with a heavy heart", added Mr Paul, and that any adverse impact would be mitigated, such as the increased investment at Newbridge.

Regarding the lack of consideration for a CAT, Mr Paul said there was "no other realistic or viable alternative" to closing Pontllanfraith leisure centre.

An order from the High Court has prevented the council from taking any further steps towards closing the site on June 30 until the conclusion of the legal claim.

A judgement is expected from Mr Justice Swift on June 24.