Give forgotten villages a sporting chance, says MSP

Iain Nicolson Centre, Chryston Road, pic of protestors hitting out at closure plans. Frances McGlinchey'Photo Emma Mitchell'7/12/12
Iain Nicolson Centre, Chryston Road, pic of protestors hitting out at closure plans. Frances McGlinchey'Photo Emma Mitchell'7/12/12

LIFT the axe hanging over a popular sports centre – and invest money in villages such as Moodiesburn, Chryston and Stepps.

That’s the plea from MSP Margaret Mitchell, who has waded into the controversy surrounding the Iain Nicolson Recreation Centre in Chryston.

She has written to Gavin Whitefield, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council, to back the case for saving the hall.

It follows two recent public meetings attended by hundreds of people – many of whom are furious at plans to close the centre to save an estimated £60,000 per year.

Ms Mitchell’s letter makes a number of points and allegations:

* The centre is strongly supported by the local community, many of whom use the facilities during the day.

* There has been a “systematic” run-down of the centre, which has not been adequately promoted.

* Strathkelvin is the largest ward in North Lanarkshire with around 22,000 people, but has not received the investment it deserves.

* Suggestions that Chryston High School’s facilities could be used instead are “not viable” as they would be out of bounds during school hours and areas such as the gym suite would not be available at any time.

Ms Mitchell insists: “I consider the proposal to close the Iain Nicolson Recreation Centre should be rejected and that it is instead made fit for purpose and that consideration be given to providing further facilities in the Strathkelvin Ward, which is a designated growth area.”

She has asked for a detailed breakdown of what has been spent on the centre between 2006 and 2012, a list of faults and repairs during that time, and details of what marketing has taken place.

Linda Hone – spokesperson for the Save Iain Nicolson Centre Group – welcomed the Conservative MSP’s involvement. That means the centre has cross-party support, with Central Scotland MSP John Wilson (SNP) and Chryston and Coatbridge MSP Elaine Smith (Labour) also backing campaigners.

North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) must save £73.3million between 2013 and 2016 – and that means cutbacks at North Lanarkshire Leisure (NLL).

The Herald understands that all the various options will be discussed at a board meeting by NLL later this month.

A spokesman said the recent public meeting had been well attended and it had received more than 1,600 written responses to a recent consultation exercise.

He confirmed: “We are currently considering all of the issues raised and meetings between senior representatives of both North Lanarkshire Leisure and the council are being planned to discuss all the options available.

“Over the last few years, over £150,000 has been invested in the centre, including new equipment and maintenance.”

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