Core Point: "We petition the council to rectify this miscommunication"
Official extract from meeting:
There was submitted petition ... from Mr Darius Namdaran, 2 Park Road, Bonnyrigg in the following terms, viz:-
“We petition Midlothian Council to stop the demolition of Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre (July) for at least 12 months. To give residents of Bonnyrigg the time to decide how they want to make use of it.
Residents were informed in Midlothian Councils official consultation leaflet that: "Bonnyrigg leisure Centre would be closed and sold to finance the new facility"(P.21 Planning Pre-Application consultation).However, the Council subsequently decided it would be demolished without publicly informing residents. The planned demolition is not on the internet or on the Councils website nor was it mentioned in the Council's information newspaper "Midlothian News". We had to individually ask a local councillor to enquire because they didn't even know. It appears some clubs and trusts were approached, however, this does not constitute informing the residents of the community.
We hope you can see that residents were not adequately informed. Neither were they told of the possibility of it being given, for free, to the community to use. For the sake of full community engagement we would like the wider community to have a public and direct say in what happens with this building.
We propose Midlothian Council correct this oversight by freezing demolition until ordinary residents have at least 12 months to organise and propose a viable plan for the whole building.
Currently, Midlothian council suggest only the back hall is viable for the community to run. However, we think placing soft play in the swimming pool hall would be more viable. We would also propose that the workshop underneath the pool be used for a bike repair Co-op, for youth.
We can substantiate these proposals with initial cash flow projections, designs, analysis of previous maintenance costs and building repair reports. However, we need time to prepare a thorough proposal and to secure provisional funding so that the council can confidently handover the building to the community as a whole.
There are many viable possibilities. There is a strong appetite for community engagement in Bonnyrigg at this time. Combined with the possibilities of an intact building like the leisure centre, it could be of significant benefit over the next few decades.
Therefore we petition the council to rectify this miscommunication and give residents the opportunity to choose what to do with the building.”
The Committee then heard from Mr Namdaran and Ms J Lee in amplification of the petition. In particular they highlighted their view that the building was ideal for community use but it was essential that the community be given the chance to formulate their proposals and obtain costings. This could not be done prior to the scheduled demolition of the leisure centre in July 2013.
In this respect Mr Namdaran highlighted that the decision to proceed to demolition had not, in his view, been made public and as such there had not been an opportunity for the community to formulate proposals. He also highlighted that so far as he could ascertain, the Council’s only decision in this matter had been to “dispose” of the building which in itself did not equate to its demolition, which had not been mentioned in consultation documents. He also drew attention to meetings with officials in respect of the possible future use of the building and arising from which he asserted that different information had been forthcoming on each occasion, particularly in relation to the costs which the Council would have to meet in order to keep the building open.
Mr Namdaran contended that the leisure Centre was entirely suited to use as a play centre with a soft play area; a youth venue; and a number of other community uses; that the fact that the commercial sale of the building was prevented by a restriction in the title had greatly influenced the decision to demolish the building; and that the public had been “kept in the dark” over the Council’s intention to demolish in order to prevent a community based proposal to be formulated. At the very least, it was possible to keep the “front area” of the leisure centre open and allow its use as a soft play area, at minimal cost. The petition was, in addition to [ Petition containing 211 signatures and 24 letters of support ], also supported by Bonnyrigg Community Council; 451 messages of support on Facebook; 102 online petitioners; and the National Playing Fields Association. Accordingly, the petitioners sought a postponement of the demolition of the building and asked that the Council now positively consider the principle of community ownership.
Thereafter, both Mr Namdaran and Ms Lee answered questions from members.
The Head of Property and Facilities Management confirmed to the Committee that the revenue savings to accrue from the closure and demolition of the leisure centre had been factored in to the running costs of the new Lasswade High School Centre and that the contract for the construction of that centre had included the demolition of the leisure centre.
After discussion, Councillor Baxter, seconded by Councillor Coventry moved that the petition be referred to the Director, Corporate Resources to allow discussions to be held with the petitioners on the possible community use of the Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre and that a report in this respect be submitted to the Council at its meeting on 25 June 2013. As an amendment, Councillor Muirhead, seconded by Councillor Russell, moved that, having regard to the earlier consultations undertaken in respect of the Lasswade High School Centre, no action be taken on the petition.
On a vote being taken, three members voted for the motion and three for the amendment. The Chair thereafter exercised his casting vote in favour of the amendment which accordingly became the decision of the meeting.