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Waste water or community asset? Town's MSP seeks swimming pool clarity

Written by Scott Campbell.
 
 
 
 
 
Published at 20:26 GMT on Wednesday 20th March, 2013.

JAMIE Hepburn, SNP MSP for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth has written once more to North Lanarkshire Council to press for answers about the rationale for their decision to close swimming pools at six secondary schools – five of which are within the Cumbernauld and Kilsyth area.

Mr Hepburn had previously written to North Lanarkshire Council on 1st March to express his concerns about the proposal, which will see Cumbernauld; Abronhill; Greenfaulds; St Maurice’s, and Kilsyth High Schools all lose their swimming pool.

Commenting, Mr Hepburn said: “I remain very concerned by the Council’s proposal to shut these five swimming pools across Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.  It seems to me to be a very short-sighted decision, and entirely counterintuitive to encouraging fitter and more active lifestyles.”

The decision will not only hit pupils who currently benefit by having access to a pool at their school, but also community groups.  Representatives of both Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Kayak Club and Greenfaulds Divers, who utilise school swimming pools have contacted Mr Hepburn to express their concern about the closure of these pools, and the negative impact it will have on their ability to maintain their activities.

 
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The SNP man added: “It also seems to me that if these pools are not being utilised as best they might, then the solution doesn’t lie in closing them, but trying to encourage better use.  I am aware, from many constituents contacting me, that there are concerns about not being always able to access the pools at either the Tryst Leisure Centre or Kilsyth Swimming Pool.  The Council has a ready-made solution in the five pools in the schools in the local area.

“These closures will also negatively impact on the voluntary groups that currently use the pools.  It isn’t at all clear where they might not undertake their activity.  Indeed, in the case of the Kayak Club, I believe the Tryst has been ruled out, as the pool there isn’t suitable for the equipment.  The danger is that these clubs might have nowhere to go, and cease activity.”

James McKinstry, Head of Resources with North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure Services department wrote to Mr Hepburn on 8th March justifying the closures, setting out that there is “limited use of the pools, both by schools and the wider community”.  Mr McKinstry also set out that it “would require significant investment to bring them [the pools in question] up to an acceptable standard”, but also set out that the Council may pursue “an option to convert the area to alternative curriculum use”, but did not set out cost comparisons for both.

Mr Hepburn has therefore replied to Mr McKinstry and asked for clarification on specific points, such as the estimated cost be of bringing the pools up to an acceptable standard; the cost be of converting the pools for alternative curriculum use; the projected saving is to the Council by closing these swimming pools, and how that figure has been calculated; the current pattern of usage at each of the swimming pools in question, by each school itself, and by the wider community; the revenue has been at each school swimming pool in each of the last five years; what consideration has been given to trying to increase utilisation of the swimming pools – particularly by each local community; where the local authority proposes the current activities in each swimming pool will now be diverted to.

Mr Hepburn concluded: “This proposal is wrong, and I continue to believe that these pools should remain open and to be used by the local community.  They should be viewed as a valuable asset, rather than the liability that North Lanarkshire Council seems to view them as.”

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