Hundreds protest after fire inspection closes community sports centre

Fitness fans face uncertain future after venue shut down 'as a matter of urgency'.

North Lanarkshire: Protests against closure of Bannan Fitness Club in Coatbridge over fire safety concerns STV News

Hundreds of people gathered in Coatbridge to protest against the closure of a community sports hub.

The Janet Hamilton Centre, which is home to Bannan Fitness Club, was shut by North Lanarkshire Council at the start of February over safety concerns following a fire in 2019.

Its founders organised a peaceful protest outside the venue, urging the local authority to reopen the site.

Head trainer Ryan Mcfarlane told STV News: “We got an hour’s notice [that it was closing], before a class. They said the building was being shut down, and we’ve had very little information since then.”

The club, which opened as a charity in 2009, offers boxing and boxercise classes to all genders, ages, and abilities, and also puts on sessions for people with additional needs.

Kevin Kennedy, 18, has been going to the classes for eight years. He says they have helped to improve his upper body strength, allowing him to transfer more easily into and out of his wheelchair.

Kevin Kennedy said the club was beneficial to his mental health.

He said: “This is the first club that was accessible for me. I would do a one-to-one session with a personal trainer, that was adapted to what I could do. That was massive for my mental health at the time.”

Helen Watt, aged 73, regularly goes to the group’s “clubercise” classes.

She said: “It’s a family, it’s not a club. It’s family-orientated, and it’s there for everybody. If this facility goes, you have single parents who don’t have childcare support, who won’t have anywhere to train.

“People who are unemployed won’t have the means to go and train elsewhere. If this goes, it’ll be a death in the community.”

The group has been using a local church hall in the meantime, but has only been able to offer pared-back classes twice a week, as staff haven’t been able to retrieve equipment like punch bags.

Founder Pat Bannan said: “We had this place running, and we kept it running. We paid for our accommodation, and we manned it. I think it’s a terrible loss to Coatbridge, Airdrie, Bargeddie, Wishaw, Lanarkshire, we get them from all over. I think it’s a terrible loss to all these people.”

North Lanarkshire Council said it had no choice but to close the centre following an inspection.

A spokesperson said: “The venue was closed as a matter of urgency for safety reasons based on the advice of an independent fire safety consultant and our own health and safety colleagues following an inspection.

“We are continuing to work with the groups affected to find suitable alternative provision for them while the work is carried out. No decision has been taken about the future of the centre.”

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