THERE were cries of “throw them out” as councillors granted permission for a new leisure centre in Andover last week.

Up to 100 angry residents booed and jeered at Test Valley Borough Council’s Northern Area Planning Committee as councillors overwhelmingly approved the multi-million pound plans during the boisterous meeting, held at Andover Baptist Church.

Most of the audience stormed out after the decision, with campaigners furious at the closure of the town’s current pool heckling the committee.

The pool closed on Saturday, forcing leaving users with little choice but to have to travel to other towns to go swimming.

TVBC plans to provide temporary £800,000 swimming facilities, costing about £800,000, with a planning application to erect a pool at Shepherds Spring Lane car park set to be discussed by councillors later this month, but residents greeted the meeting’s outcome with dismay.

Speaking to the Advertiser afterwards, Ukip county councillor Tim Rolt said: “You couldn’t make it up.

“It flies in the face of everything, strategies on obesity and everything.

“The council hasn’t talked to us. People have been utterly ignored. People’s time is precious, so to have that many turn up it’s clear the feeling is there.”

During the meeting a member of the audience shouted at councillors: “Why don’t you listen to the residents?”

Chairman councillor Daniel Busk, who represents Broughton and Stockbridge, warned he would have “no option but to have you thrown out, basically” if such interruptions continued.

Not all councillors backed the planning application, submitted by new leisure operator Places for People.

Concerns were raised over issues including design, parking and disabled bays, lighting and noise, with town councillor Barbara Long telling the committee the plans threatened to “change the character of this part of the town”.

Fellow speaker at the meeting, county councillor Tony Hooke, said: “It’s quite clear there are three parties in this – the leisure operator, the council and the public. Two out of three will win. The people who will lose are the townspeople. You’ve not been consulted.”

Tory councillor Tony Hope was cheered when he said: “I think the whole thing could have been handled a whole lot better than it has been.

“We need the facility, but I shan’t be voting for it. I really feel that with such a big and expensive project more information should have been imparted.

“We ought to look again, and start again if necessary.”

Councillor Iris Andersen said she could not ignore the voices of unhappy residents. When the majority of councillors voted in favour of the application, Cllr Hooke urged voters to “throw them out” at the ballot box.

There were also cries of “God help you” and “You don’t give a damn, do you?”

Dozens of objections had been lodged prior to the meeting. Unhappy residents and centre users had argued the new centre was smaller than the current one despite the town’s growing population, while concerns were raised over the level of public consultation.

In a statement, TVBC community and leisure portfolio holder Councillor Tony Ward said: “I know there have been a lot of concerns and questions and we have acknowledged and responded to them all.

“This includes answering queries directly, by providing regular updates and information and putting a list of FAQs on our website.

“I am sorry that people will experience disruption to their sport and leisure activities whilst the building work takes place but we are doing everything we possibly can to minimise this. It is a short-term loss for a long-term gain.

“The process to get us to this point has taken several years and involved a huge amount of work to get the best possible outcome for our residents.”

The new leisure centre will feature a 165-station fitness suite including a virtual cycling studio, 25m six-lane pool with 15m learner pool, dance studios, eight-court sports hall, squash courts, adventure play and café.

TVBC agreed to award the 30-year contract to Places for People in November 2016. The contract started on Saturday, with the new centre due to open in spring 2019.

John Bates, business development director at Places for People Leisure said: “The new Andover leisure centre will ensure the delivery of an accessible community leisure facility that provides the latest innovations and initiatives to encourage more members of the community to adopt a more active and healthy lifestyle.”