Dozens of council-run community centres and leisure facilities are to close in North Lanarkshire.
The Labour-run local authority announced on Thursday that 39 venues previously earmarked for closure will shut their doors permanently over the next two years.
Five of North Lanarkshire’s eight swimming pools are among the facilities that will shut.
Kilsyth Swimming Pool, the Sir Matt Busby Sports Complex in Bellshill, John Smith Pool in Airdrie, Shotts Leisure Centre and Aquatec in Motherwell are all affected by the cuts.
Local authority bosses say they’re facing “tough decisions”, following the publication of a report into the condition of venues, usage, footfall, and the money expected to maintain them in the coming years.
Earlier this week, members of Bellshill Sharks Amateur Swimming Club protested against the planned closures.
They have recently been training outside in the cold, instead of being in the pool at the town’s Sir Matt Busby Sport Complex.
They’re now worried they might soon have nowhere to train at all.
Logan Moffitt, a 13-year-old club swimmer, said he was “devastated” when he heard the council’s plan to close the facility.
He told STV News: “I am currently working towards qualifying times for SNAGs [the National Age Group Championships] 2024 and now I don’t know what the future of my swimming will look like if this centre closes. It would be a major blow for my club and all my friends I train with.
“My brother’s name is Callum and he is eight-years-old. He is one of the youngest members of the club and I feel really sad about the prospect of him not being fortunate to have the same experiences that I have had being part of a swimming club.”
A petition has since been launched – backed by students, parents and the wider community.
Euan Lowe, CEO of Scottish Swimming, said: “We understand that there are ageing pools in Scotland and the condition of some venues is a concern however it would be devastating for the safety, health and social fabric of the country if community pools close before building is under way or plans are in place for new pools.
“As an island nation it is paramount that every child should have access to swimming and our main priority is ensuring access to water is available, accessible and affordable so that everyone can swim.”
Also impacted by the council’s impending decision is the Wado Karate Central club at Holytown Community Centre.
Chief instructor Charlie Lindsay said it will have a hugely detrimental impact on young sporting talent:
He said: “In the past 50 years the club has produced in this community centre we have produced Scottish, British and European champions.
“It would be such a devastating loss for those people because there is nowhere else in the area for them to train.”
Brandon Forrester, who represents Scotland in karate at international level competitions all over Europe, said: “This club really helped me and made me so much better. All the other options for other karate clubs were very, very far away.”
Councillors will consider a report reviewing the future of the sites earmarked for closure tomorrow – and say they’re facing “extremely difficult decisions.”
Councillor Jim Logue, leader of North Lanarkshire Council, said: “Making decisions on the future of community facilities has been overwhelmingly difficult.
“After considering the comprehensive review which recognised usage and condition, as well as the amount of money which would be needed to modernise older facilities, the simple fact remains that the council just does not have the money to maintain all these facilities in a sustainable way.
“Our immediate priority is to engage with users of facilities to identify suitable alternative venues for activities and bookings where possible, while a phased closure is carried out. This will take some time, and we will update users of facilities throughout.
“For years we have warned that insufficient funding from the Scottish Government will see local councils struggle to deliver services that are hugely valued by local people.
“The council needs to save £64m over the next three years and that means having to make quite painful decisions about community facilities in order to protect services in the face of the most pressing budget cuts.
“Although the council is continuing with a hugely ambitious investment programme, which will see some community, leisure and library facilities replaced within new community hubs, the reality is that we need to meet the needs of people across North Lanarkshire in a way that sees services delivered through an overall reduced estate.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is for democratically-elected councils to make decisions on the priorities for their local areas and consider how facilities are used.
“While Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution due to ongoing UK Government austerity, this year North Lanarkshire Council will receive £779.7m to fund local services – which equates to an extra £25.4m on last year.
“Work is also ongoing with COSLA to establish a new fiscal framework for councils through the Verity House Agreement, a landmark agreement that is forging a stronger partnership between the Scottish Government and local councils through the spirit of collaboration and engagement.”
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