CONTROVERSIAL plans to transform the way in which leisure services are run in Caerphilly over the next 10 years have been approved for public consultation.

The consultation on the draft strategy to improve sport and active recreation in the region will start on July 16 following approval from Caerphilly council’s cabinet on Wednesday.

Parts of the strategy have caused contention, notably proposals to focus on delivering services from four leisure centres – leaving the remaining facilities with an uncertain future.

The strategic sites would be in Caerphilly town, Risca, Newbridge and in the Bargoed/Aberbargoed area. Question marks remain over leisure centres in Pontllanfraith, Cefn Fforest, Bedwas, Heolddu, St Cenydd, Ystrad Mynach and New Tredegar.

The council say the 10-week consultation will aim to take all views onboard – but some councillors have raised concerns about the process.

Independent councillor Kevin Etheridge called for the council to hold a public referendum vote on the future of leisure centre provisions.

He told the regeneration and environment scrutiny committee on Tuesday: “Everyone needs to have a say, a voice and a vote on this decision. We have to have a level playing field.”

But deputy leader Cllr Sean Morgan said: “When you have a referendum, you can only ask a single question.

“There is a far broader spectrum to this strategy, it’s not just leisure centres. You’ll get a lot more information from a consultation than a referendum.”

Cllr Etheridge also asked why the strategy had not been discussed by the council’s health and wellbeing and education for life scrutiny committees prior to the consultation process.

The strategy suggests that centres on school sites could be taken over by the relevant schools, but Labour councillor Tom Williams said: “If [schools] decide to say that can’t take this on, that’s what will happen.”

Jeff Reynolds, sport and leisure services facilities manager, told cabinet on Wednesday that the council would write to each school about the strategy before the end of term.

The meeting also heard that the consultation would involve drop-in sessions and physical copies of the strategy at all the council’s public buildings, together with social media outreach.

“This the most extensive consultation period this authority has articulated outside the budget process,” said Mr Reynolds.

“This is a live document and throughout the process we will be amending it to take into account the views of all residents.”

Cllr Barbara Jones added: “We cannot in these austere times continue to run the services we have done historically.

“I think we’re all aware things have got to change, and how they change will be up to the people who live in this county borough.”