Poor response on threat to centres

ONLY 39 residents from across the Borders have responded to the council’s consultation on the proposals to possibly close some of the region’s leisure centres, it was revealed this week, writes Fiona Scott.

The news came after a sparsly attended, yet at times heated, public meeting in Galashiels Volunteer Hall last week, heard consultant, Kit Campbell defend his recommendations.

Chaired by Councillor Fiona Lackenby, the meeting gave members of the public and elected members of SBC a chance to put their questions and points of view to Mr Campbell, who was commissioned by SBC to compile a report on sport and leisure facilities across the region.

The report was released last October and immediately caused a storm of controversy, mainly because of its recommendations to close swimming pools across the Borders.

Selkirk councillor Kenneth Gunn repeated his concerns about the social consequences of the loss of swimming pools to individual towns, the recommendation being to build a multifaceted sports complex in Galashiels. And he called into question Mr Campbell’s understanding of the Borders area.

“Each Borders town deserves to have its own swimming pool and sports facilities, wherever they are. I don’t think you know the Borders at all, Mr Campbell,” he accused.

Councillor Gordon Edgar added his weight to the argument, calling the recommendations “elitist”, and maintained that, contrary to what is in the report, “keeping the status quo is an option if it is budgeted and costed properly.”

But despite the passionate barrage Mr Campbell insisted that keeping the current facilities running in the long term would put an unnecessary strain on council budgets and that an “all-singing, all-dancing” state-of-the-art facility was the most viable option.

Mr Campbell reiterated that while the report highlighted issues and possible solutions, no firm decisions had been made and that all opinions would be noted and taken forward. “There are no done deals,” he said.

Others attending the meeting were SBC chief executive David Hume and executive member for culture sport and community learning Graham Garvie.

Meanwhile, this week Conservative MSP John Lamont is urging more people to put their views across. “We should not be in any doubt that these proposals could have significant consequences on the sporting facilities in the Borders and could lead to leisure centres being closed,” he said.

“The consultation paper suggests that there should a new sporting centre in Galashiels serving the whole of Borders. However, we all know how limited the public transport network is in the Borders, particularly in the evenings. I just don’t think that people from across the region are going to flock to Gala to use this new facility. If we really want people to have healthy and active lifestyles, the sporting facilities must be local to each community. Centralisation will simply not work.”

“If we want the council to know how strongly we feel about this, people are going to have to write in and tell them.”

The Borders Sports Conference has been rescheduled for Sunday March 6 at the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels – and the formal consultation process has been extended to Tuesday March 15. The conference, originally due to be held in December, had to be postponed due to the adverse weather experienced at the time across the Borders.