STAR Centre to STAR Hub: What are we gaining and what are we losing?

6 July 2016

With the new STAR Hub set to open this autumn (checked and verified – the whispers about a January launch seem unfounded) and the STAR centre set to be demolished shortly afterwards, Inksplott takes a timely look at how the new offering fares against the old.

Let’s start with some stats.  In black and white, the old offering comprised of the current STAR centre on Splott Road and the old (and much loved) Splott Pool in Splott Park included the following:

  • Multi-use sports hall which housed 6 badminton courts
  • Fitness suite
  • Meeting rooms
  • Function room
  • Library
  • 25m swimming pool

The new STAR Hub, built on the site of the old Splott Pool, will offer the following:

  • 25m swimming pool
  • Gym and fitness suite
  • New library
  • Multi-use community/leisure rooms
  • Advice services
  • Training rooms
  • Community café.

According to information on the Cardiff Council website, the new building will cost £6 million and will be constructed to the latest standards of energy efficiency, including solar thermal panels to reduce heating costs.​

To help unpick the puzzle of which is better and to answer some of the concerns raised by locals, Inksplott asked local councillors five key questions.

Question 1: What are the benefits of the Star Hub versus the STAR Centre and Splott Pool?

Councillor Ed Stubs:

“The main benefits are of course that these are new facilities, disabled friendly and in full working order. The heating system at the pool needed replacing, as did frankly the whole building. The result of years of under investment that this was the worse used pool in Cardiff and needed a huge subsidy to maintain, the Star Centre had only had money for the library. The danger was it went the way of pools across the UK. Hundreds of old pools have shut since the cuts began in 2010. Where as you can count on one hand the number of new pools that have been built across the whole of the UK

It was impossible to build on two sites again so a new hub is being built. This will contain a pool, with full disabled access, the pool will have a pod for wheelchair users. It will also be a new facility which will have the most advanced and sustainable heating system anywhere. The gym will be state of the art and hopefully pull back users from some of the cheaper gyms that have opened elsewhere. There will also be a sports rooms for aerobics classes etc. The original plan contained a sports hall the 9million cost proved unreachable so we are instead refurbishing the sports hall at Willows. This will be accessible to stretch card users. I am strongly of the opinion that new facilities will last the test of time better than an old pool that had been starved of investment for years. We all remember the letters falling off the side and them being replaced by a tarpaulin sign. This was typical of the lack of foresight that put services in jeopardy across the UK.

The new HUB will also contain a new library, with new IT facilities. The bit of the Hub that has raised some controversy is the advice section, people are misunderstood this for an office block. People have questioned the need for housing and benefits advice in the HUB and even whether they belong in there. Splott is a mixed ward. Deprivation is measured by superoutput areas in Wales, these are clusters of a few Roads. While Splott 2 is the 447 most deprived and Splott 1 the 418 most deprived, Splott 6 which is the Bayside CCHA estate, is in the top 10 most deprived. Because of confusion about these deprivation stats some though that figure was for the whole ward therefore not realising how deprived some pockets are and how residents in these pockets need such advise on their doorstep.”

Councillor Gretta Marshall:

“The benefits of the STAR Hub are that it will lift the Tremorfa area of Splott, the most deprived part if the Ward.  Also it will serve local schools with a new pool with disabled access. The negatives are the removal of the Sports Hall.”

Question 2: What provision is being made for the loss of the sports hall with the demolition of the STAR Centre, which includes six badminton courts?  Where are local people supposed to go once the STAR Centre closes? Why are we losing provision in this way?

Councillor Ed Stubs:

“The Sports hall at Willows is having a full refurb and will be open for residents to use. Helping the School have a new sports hall and residents access to one at evenings and weekends. It will also bring the school more money. We are also gaining 6.3 million pounds worth of new facilities.”

Inksplott asked Councillor Stubbs when the refurbishment of Willows’ Sports Hall would be ready and he advised that the aim was for it to be ready around the same time as the Hub.

Councillor Gretta Marshall:

“There are plans, I’m told to open up Willows High sports hall to the community. Personally, I have been working closely with Cardiff Central Youth Club about public use.

We are losing provision due to UK budgets cuts and how the current Council Administration has decided to prioritise these. Cllr Huw Thomas was the Cabinet Member who made the original proposals. I believe this was naivety on his part and Cllr Luke Holland and I tried to salvage the situation by proposing the new Hub.

Under Heather Joyce, with two Splott Cllrs in the Cabinet, we were assured ALL STAR Centre facilities would transfer to the new Hub. This changed when Phil Bale became Leader and the Hub was downgraded. Worth noting the Leader’s area in Llanishen is also getting a new Hub, despite already having an unaffected Leisure Centre.”

Question 3: Who will run the community cafe? At the Grangetown Hub it was supposed to be run by volunteers but it didn’t work and the cafe is closed. They are now tendering for a third sector organisation to run it.
Councillor Ed Stubs:

“The Grange town Hub Café just didn’t work, the important thing is that the facility is there for the community. I want it to be community run but not until the business model is in place. Until then I am flexible about others being involved.”

Councillor Gretta Marshall:

“I really hope and have pushed for the parents of children at the Play Centre will run the cafe as a cooperative and training cafe. Until I intervened the cafe had been omitted from the plans. I am concerned at the lack of resource and help being provided to the local community on this. What you say about Grangetown heightens my concerns.”

Question 4:  When will the new Hub open? In recent publicity is states Autumn, but there has been mention that it will be January.

Councillor Ed Stubs:

I spoke to the lead officer last Friday and he says September. It would be good to know where alternative dates are coming from.” (a Splott resident had posted on Twitter that they had contacted the council and been told that the opening had been pushed back to January).

Councillor Gretta Marshall:

“The new Hub is scheduled to open this September! I am concerned this may be delayed and also about opening hours and transfer of staff from STAR Centre.”

Inksplott asked contractor Willmott Dixon and was told that the building is being handed over to the council on the 12th September.

Question 5: What is the Wilmott Dixon 106 money being spent on? Has this been decided yet? Can local people have a say?

Councillor Ed Stubs:

I am not aware there is any. Section 106 does not apply to every development and is attached to planning permission when a development is considered to have a significant adverse effect on local facilities. Schools and roads for example. The money is meant to ensure that such facilities can cope with increased population.  This is a community facility, I am not sure how it could be deemed as having an adverse effect on facilities.”

Councillor Gretta Marshall:

“I have requested the money to be spent on local community priorities such as road safety concerns. I very much expect local people to have a say but I have not had an update on this as yet.

In addition, I would like to add that I am very concerned about how the new Hub is being funded. We were told originally that this would be through the HRA but I have since been told Sec 106 from Sanquahar Street development is being used. I have strongly objected but not had a satisfactory response.

I also continue to be concerned about marketing of the new Hub, public transport issues, opening times, local input & the transfer of staff & services.  I liaised with St Saviours regarding provision of a Library to Splott residents and I also liaised with Nat West about provision of a cashpoint at the new Hub and passed this on to senior Council Officers.”
 

Many thanks to local councillors Ed Stubbs and Gretta Marshall for answering the questions sent to them (and very quickly I might add).  It’s good news that the STAR area will be getting its pool back (this has been really missed) and that it will be fully accessible for disabled users.  A community café in that part of the area is also a nice idea, if it can be sustained.  However, all is not rosy just yet.

There are still uncertainties around the new STAR Hub (opening hours, prices, sports classes on offer, full list of gym and fitness equipment etc.,) and it would be good if the council made this information available on their website and via a local advertising campaign; the opening is only a few months away.

STAR Hub - Artis impression

On searching ‘STAR Hub’ on the council’s website, the proposals for the ground floor and first floor of the new STAR Hub are no longer available.  The only thing accessible is the artist’s impression of the outside of the building, so it’s difficult to get any idea of the size and shape of what will be on offer.  How big are the multi-use community/leisure rooms?

 

The refurbishment of Willows hall also raises concerns.  Will it really be open in time to avoid a loss of provision for all the people who use the STAR Centre main hall for badminton, martial arts, football, gymnastics, netball etc?  Will it really be open evenings and weekends to the general public?  Who’s going to staff this?  How will it be paid for?  How come there’s money for this and not for keeping the original promise of including it in the STAR Hub?

Inksplott feels another round of questioning coming on; this time directly to the council.  Watch this space for further updates.

If you have a question on the STAR Hub that you would like Insksplott to ask on your behalf, pop it in the comments box below and we’ll do our best.

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Mick Conroy says:

Well informed and objective article Lynne! I have many happy memories of working at East Moors Youth Club in the late 80s/Early 90s and remember the early days of the STAR centre. Good local politicians similar to the people in your article argued with conviction for facilities in both Grangetown and the STAR areas at a time when Cardiff City council were investing in multi-million pound leisure centres and pools such as Llanishen. At this time, Cardiff Council would not fund the STAR centre to be built and therefore a voluntary trust was set up with support of Lord Brooks of Tremorfa to get the building funded and up and running. It is a shame to see the old STAR centre being demolished especially for all of the local people that were involved as volunteers, fundraisers and staff. I wish the new centre the best of luck and hope that the ‘community’ ethos and spirit that was behind the first STAR centre is retained by all involved.

Siobhan says:

Thanks for the informative article!
I have a Cardiff Council stretch card that I can use in all Cardiff Council leisure centres – can you check that I’ll be able to use it in the STAR Hub for the pool, gym and clases?

Jess Lazo says:

I have a copy of the plans on Facebook group ‘save our sports hall and library’. The library is half the size of the star one and the ICT is also smaller..great if a sports hall can be accessed but all facililities will be in one part of STAR area where previously they were more central and split between too sites so less accessible to adamsdown residents in particular.

Thank you all for your comments.

I will try and find out about the Stretch Card and post a follow-up.

Update on proposed opening times:
Monday to Thursday – 7.30am to 9.00pm
Friday – 7.30am to 6.30pm
Saturday – 7.30am to 5.30pm
Sunday – 7.30am to 5.30pm

The ‘Hub’ element will be open from 9am to 6pm in the week and on a Saturday from 9am to 5.30pm.

rachel lord says:

Will there be any mother & baby / toddler classes/groups as we seem to be lacking in these within this area? Thanks

Anne-marie says:

I have an active card will I be able to carry on using it at the new hub.

Not sure about the Active Cards – I think they’ll carry on for one year under a transfer agreement and after that it will be up to the new management but I will check the details with the council and post an update as soon as I hear.

Kaileigh mcmulzie says:

How deep is the new pool

0.9 meters both ends. Not sure about the middle part – am going to try it out this week and will add an update.

Leanne says:

Recent visit to the star hub revealed a lovely bright spacious function room which is not yet available to hire??? I enquired about a children’s party in December 2016 and was told its not available for hire????? Please can somebody explain what was point in this room