Councillor Long, who alongside his party colleagues successfully led the campaign with staff and users to keep the centre open when it was previously threatened with closure by the DUP’s Peter Robinson in 2003, said it had an important place in the local community.
“I have previously expressed concerns about the lack of communication between Belfast and Castlereagh Councils over the transfer of the facility, which if had taken place could have resolved many of the current issues before the handover and avoided the frustrating stalemate.
“In 2010, I backed plans to redevelop the centre in a phased process. If that had happened, there would be a new centre in place by now. Instead we have a situation where former Castlereagh ratepayers have increased rates bills but severely reduced leisure facilities.
“I understand health and safety must take priority but once the centre is proven safe to reopen, Alliance will be calling for the gym to be reopened immediately and the Council to provide the necessary repairs to ensure the pool follows suit. In the interim, we have been pressing the Council and GLL to assist those who have faced job cuts and provide adequate facilities for local swimmers. Naomi Long and my other Alliance colleagues have met with staff and users, and it is clear how distressed they are at this impasse and the manner in which it has been handled.
“Whilst some might laud the recent agreement to provide a new centre, this will take years to provide. In the meantime, it is not good enough that East Belfast has inadequate leisure provision and I have concerns about swimming provision across the city and beyond if interim arrangements are not made.”