Page last updated at 15:18 GMT, Thursday, 17 December 2009

'Guarantee' fire-hit Afan Lido to be replaced

The Afan Lido after the fire


A pledge has been given that a leisure complex badly damaged in a fire will either be replaced or rebuilt.

More than 100 firefighters tackled the blaze at the Afan Lido in Aberafan, which broke out on Wednesday evening.

An emergency meeting is being held to discuss its future, although it is still too dangerous for investigators and structural engineers to go inside.

But Neath Port Talbot council said there would be an Afan Lido-style complex on the seafront in the future.

A lifeguard has told how she saw the fire break out from underneath a fake rock feature and raised the alarm.

Afan Lido leisure centre users speak of their sadness at the fire

It led to homes nearby being evacuated and roads closed after it started at 1650 GMT on Wednesday.

South Wales Police said a joint investigation with the fire service would begin when the building is safe enough.

Ch Insp Andy Kingdom, who was the police commander at the scene, said it was lucky no-one was hurt, and praised lido staff and the emergency services.

Several people needed help as properties were evacuated, and Ch Insp Kingdom thanked residents "for their patience and co-operation".

"I appreciate many people were inconvenienced but I am sure they will understand that all the measures put in place were absolutely necessary during such a serious incident," he added.

Richard Fry from the fire service said: "There's severe damage to the swimming pool area, much of the ceiling has collapsed into that area.

"Although from outside it looks fairly small as you can see there's areas of fire damage to the windows. The damage is to the roof area."

The fire is said to have started in a fake rock display

Councillor Mike James, cabinet member with responsibility for leisure and tourism at Neath Port Talbot, who is also chair of the Celtic Leisure Trust body in charge of the lido, described the building as an "icon" which dominated the Aberafan seafront and pledged that it would either be rebuilt or replaced.

"That's a guarantee from Neath Port Talbot [council]. The future of the Aberafan seafront with an Afan Lido-style complex there in the future," he said.

Neath Port Talbot council will hold an emergency meeting on Thursday to discuss the fire, which is not being treated as suspicious.

It has already promised to repair or replace the complex, which was opened by the Queen in 1965 with Graham Jenkins, the brother of Hollywood star Richard Burton, as its first manager.

Meanwhile, Tywyn Primary School in adjacent Channel View was closed on Thursday following the fire but is expected to re-open on Friday.

I spotted the fire in the poolside. There is a feature temple and fake rocks and the smoke was coming from inside the rocks
Lifeguard Justine Jones

Fire crews were unable to enter the the leisure centre in the Sandfields estate once the flames broke through the roof.

At the height of the blaze, 17 fire vehicles were deployed, including three aerial appliances.

Lido lifeguard Justine Jones, 19, was one of four staff on duty at the poolside and was the person who raised the alarm.

She told the BBC News website: "I spotted the fire in the poolside. There is a feature temple and fake rocks and the smoke was coming from inside the rocks.

"I heard a 'pop' and there was smoke and flames everywhere. It was coming from the bottom by the slides."

Afan Lido on fire
The council has already pledged to replace the lido if necessary

Ms Jones, who has worked at the lido for two-and-a-half years, said there was only one person swimming at the time but it took them a moment to attract his attention.

"We whistled at him and said, 'there's a fire, quick, run!'"

They checked the changing area before leaving. She added: "All the staff got their heads together and acted fast."

Ms Jones said the building had fortunately been very quiet at the time the fire started.

Her car keys and personal belongings are still inside the building, and she had to leave her car parked outside.

Members of the Welsh Commonwealth Games team trained at the Afan Lido before the 1966 games

Councillor Ali Thomas, leader of Neath Port Talbot council, paid tribute to the lido's staff for their "prompt, well rehearsed actions which meant that there were no injuries".

"I would also like to thank the local residents for their calmness and co-operation with our officers and emergency services during the incident," he said.

"Local businesses also showed great citizenship, in particular the Apollo Cinema, who provided teas, coffee and hot dogs free of charge to the emergency services."

Aberavon MP Hywel Francis has also visited the lido to thank its staff and the emergency services.

He said he would work with the council to make sure the facilities are replaced.


We asked for your comments about the fire and memories of the lido. Here are a selection of those received. Thank you for the responses. The comments on this story are now closed.

Very saddening to see the lido go up in flames. Many great memories of that places; swimming and playing football. Focal point of Aberafan and Sandfields which will hopefully be resurrected and improved..
Mark Norman, Portsmouth, Hampshire

It was very sad to witness the Afan Lido being destroyed by fire, luckily there were no injuries. The Lido has delivered an important service to Port Talbot and the surrounding areas over many years, helping to develop international sportsmen/women over a wide variety of activities, it is also the focal point for a range of clubs, giving adults and children quality leisure time !

I really hope the Welsh Assembly treat the Lido as a "special case" and put funding in place for the repairs/rebuild to be carried out ASAP.

Peter Bamsey, Port Talbot

I worked on the design and building of the original Lido as a young engineer in the sixties. This is the second major fire at the Lido. Lets hope they build a state of the art complex for the residents of NPTCC. What will the school children do now for their swimming lessons?
Peter Lindsay,

First the Aberavon Beach Hotel, then the social club (Dunes) followed by the Vivian Hotel and now the Lido all within close proximity of each other. What Next??????
B. Pughsley, Baglan, Port Talbot

I can not believe this happened. I know of a well known radio station AFAN FM also shares the same building.

Not only is the Lido as we know it has changed for life, whats going to happen with one of the best local radio stations ever!
Mike foxting, aberavon

Saw Coldplay perform here in 2002. I hope they get it rebuilt quickly.
Matt, South Wales

I work in this area and sometimes sit there to gather my thoughts at Lunch time. Im quite distraught at the thought of this great building not being in my life anymore. Lido, I will miss you greatly.
Paul White, Baglan

I worked at Neath Baths as a Lifeguard from 1974 - 1977 and swam for the club. I loved visiting the Lido for races, the Pool was 50 metres compared to our 33 and they had a 10 metre diving board - happy memories indeed so sad to see it on fire
Steve Davies, Neath & Port Talbot

It was so upsetting to see history going up in smoke. But even worse to see my daughter really upset as she has been going to the Lido for the last three years to her swimming club. She was so upset that she asked me to put a comment on for her, which I did last night. she is only six and it has really upset her. Hopefully another complex will be built so that she can continue to enjoy her swimming and keep children of Port Talbot Fit and Healthy!
Catherine Tossell, Port Talbot

while i don't live local to the lido, my brother lives a stones throw away from it. we've taken my children to the pool many times, its one of the best in the area for younger children i found. i hope they rebuild the pool area in a similar design, we liked the weather warnings to let us know the wave machine was being turned on!
Peter Carnegie, cwmbran, gwent

First the gwyn hall now the lido gone up in flames NPTCBC need to look at spending money on fire sprinkler systems to try to avoid this happening ever again
christopher davies, Neath

A sad sad thing.I remember being at St.Johns School in Porthcawl and going swimming every monday evening at the Lido ......... our only break from the school being a border there , will be sadly missed if it is totally gutted.
Greg Donald, Swansea

The Afan Lido after the fire
A large hole could be seen at the Afan Lido after the fire

had many a happy day out there as a child and it will be sadly miised, guess it's to early to asertain if we'll get something of equal character back in the area
Danny Roberts, port talbot

I cannot believe that a main attractiong in Port Talbot has been ruined... It brought back so many memories as a child... I just hope it will be back to its usual self soon... I would just like to say Well Done to the emergancy services who acted very quickly and a great response!
Liam Powell, Bridgend

This building meant a lot to me, too - particularly the theatre where my father used to act. I didn't realise it was 56 years old; maybe it's time for the town to get a new icon, properly promoted this time. Sadly I would bet that - as with many such projects these days - the new Lido will have less facilities than before, not more.
Huw B, London

I can not belive the afan lido has gone up in flames yesterday and the tanks blew up and my car is out side the boiler room i can not belive it.
jackson, port talbot

3 friends and I were due to see the Lost[rophets and Kids In Glass Houses on St. Davids day next year.. They are only doing small gigs and this would have been perfect, it is too early to know what will happen. I am completely stunned and was very much looking forward to it.
Nick Bolton, Cardigan

I was in the gym that over looks the pool at the time of the alarm, all we heard was a loud pop and the alarm activiated. The staff of the Aqua dome and afan lido done an excellent job in evacuating the build, swifly and calmly. It a great shame as this was a massive part of my child hood years.
David Jones, Neath and port talbot

These things happen for a reason I am sure, I was there in June and remembered being a young teen on the prowl for a new girlfriend, found one too, but can;t remember her name!

Bigger and better and more modern facility to come, the Port Talbot area needs this kind of facelift anyway, and something for it's citizens to get behind and forget the gloom of all the job losses
Keith Walters, London, Canada

It is a great shame as it was one of the places I went to as a child when there was a lot more there in the 60s and 70s.

It was one of my enjoyments going for a swim there. I often drive past when visiting the area to see how it has changed - and it certainly has now.
J R Jones, Lytham St. Annes

its a shame and shock this has happened here in port talbot my son who works on afan fm dj smokey has been told that the radio station has been closed untill further notice this building i have grown up with yet another blow to port talbot
vivienne baker, port talbot

I just see that this might not be rebuilt unless there is money from the Welsh assembly/goverment because we didn't have enough money to open a 'bowling alley' which is next the Afan lido and now is empty. I think this won't be rebuilt even before next summer unless its sorted out immediately
Rhodri M, Port Talbot

i can not think where me and my friends will go for football now!
ryan mcmurray, port talbot

I can't believe one of the main attractions of aberavon beach was up in flames. Drove past the Lido one minuite and it was it usual self - coming home from neath, thick black smoke was spilling from the roof. Such a shame, going to miss it!
Jodie Preece, Aberavon seafront

Have just left the Afan Lido and seeing the amount of black smoke coming from the roof, I am so glad nobody has been hurt. Secondly, I applaud the workforce at the Afan Lido, I know them all well and after speaking to a few, one of their concerns was the swimming club and the other clubs and how will this affect everyone.

As one of a team of volunteer swimming teachers with Aberavon Swimming Club based in the aquadome, it's a devastation for the community and surounding areas living by the sea, we may once again lose our swimming pool.
Peter, Port Talbot

Stunned by the news.I used to swim at the lido with my father back in the early 1970's.How will the council now repair/resite such an icon of the community?:(
Edward wain, Findon,West Sussex

Can't belive the Lido has gone up in smoke! a tradegy for the community, my children have learnt to swin there, lets hop the council re-build it really quick!
Karen Davies, Port Talbot

I was only training there yesterday. I was on my way swimming when i found out it was on fire. Where can our swimming squad go now ?
rhys williams, neath

Absolutely gutted - was due to watch Lost Prophets and Kids in Glass Houses there in March.

Such a shame. What will happen to this gig now???
Chantelle, Llanelli



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