A BIG push to trigger a council debate on Pitsea swimming pool has been launched by campaigners leading the fight to save it.

The Echo yesterday revealed Basildon Council is set to transfer the pool, in Northlands Pavement, to private owners so it can be knocked down as part of major regeneration plans for the area.

However, campaigners have vowed to fight on and will try to get 5,000 signatures on a petition this weekend to force a debate on the pool’s future, which can be held under the council’s constitution.

Malcolm Chapman, 43, of Burns Avenue, Pitsea, said: “I don’t feel the public have been listened to at all and we have just been pushed aside.

“The people of Pitsea want to keep their swimming pool.

“I am going to canvass the town centres as much as possible to get up to 5,000 names, which will trigger a public meeting.

“I understand Pitsea needs regeneration, but it’s going to come at such a cost.

“With it being Olympics year, it’s such a shame that not more can be done to keep the pool. But we will carry on fighting and not give up.”

Labour ward councillors in Pitsea have also vowed to fight the plans unveiled by the Tory administration.

Gavin Callaghan, councillor for Pitsea North West, said: “There are lots of ways to describe the council’s actions on this, but it can best be described as a stitch-up.

“The council has clearly not done its job properly and has acted in an indefensible way by not consulting residents.”

Aidan McGurran, councillor for Pitsea South East, added: “It is a sad day for Pitsea and, indeed, a sad day for anyone living in Basildon. The administration has badly let Pitsea down.”

Once the pool is gone, the way will be clear for £30million regeneration plans, including a Morrisons supermarket, creating 350 jobs, six shops, including an Aldi store, and a new 100-pitch market on the site of the Railway Hotel.

Tory Malcolm Buckley , the councillor responsible for reg- eneration, said: “We have listened to local people and this is not a decision the council has taken lightly.

“What people have to realise is if they want regeneration in Pitsea, the swimming pool has to go. There is sadly no way around that. There cannot be a regenerated town centre and a swimming pool.

“You just have to look at Laindon to see what can happen to a town centre if nothing is done and we don’t want the same thing in Pitsea.”

If you would like to join the Pitsea pool debate, log on to www.facebook.com/Save PitseaPool