Birmingham city bosses are trying to cram too many major buildings into the city centre, leading to inferior facilities such as the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which could not host an Olympic swimming contest.
The claim came as councillors approved plans for a state-of-the-art Birmingham Aquatics and Leisure Centre, or BALC, on open playing fields across the road from the NIA, despite protests from Ladywood residents.
Despite crossing the planning hurdle, it is unlikely that the 50 metre pool will be built for many years as the council faces a major spending squeeze, is saddled with debts of more than £2 billion, and BALC’s £58 million price tag makes it an unaffordable luxury.
The council’s planning committee split along party lines with eight members of the Tory-Lib Dem ruling coalition voting in favour and the five Labour opposition councillors against.
Labour deputy leader Ian Ward said: “This city has had the ambition for an Olympic swimming pool for more than 20 years. It is disappointing that here we have a 50 metre pool which is not capable of hosting major international swimming event because it cannot accommodate the number of spectators. “This is a result of cramming a major building onto a small site, just like the library at Centenary Square.
“Birmingham has a small city centre and this council should be taking the opportunity to grow the city centre. Not repeating the mistakes of the 60s and 70s.”
He added that national architecture watchdog CABE had delivered a ‘damning’ verdict on the scheme.
Labour members argued that being so close to the NIA and ICC would worsen already dire parking and traffic problems during events.
But council officials insisted that events would not clash.
Resident Michael Jones, of St Vincent Street, said: “I am disappointed. The area is already grid locked, we have major problems with car parking and will lose some green open space.”
But council officers said they would take the opportunity to introduce and enforce a residents parking scheme and that sporting facilities offered at BALC made up for the loss of sports fields.
Coun Adrian Delaney (Cons, Weoley) said: “This is a wonderful new facility to benefit many thousands of people.
“It has to be located close to the city centre to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
“I think Ladywood is very lucky to have. I would love to see it in south Birmingham.”