PEOPLE power has forced a major U-turn on plans to demolish vital facilities including a library and sports centre.
A number of Midlothian public amenities have been saved from demolition, after the local council agreed to backtrack on closure plans.
Council leader Bob Constable has issued a written commitment to keep the facilities open following a spirited community campaign – which garnered support from Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh.
More than 2500 signatures, including those of Welsh and fellow author Janice Galloway, were collected in a petition opposing the original plans.
Proposals to demolish Newtongrange’s library, swimming pool, sports centre and community learning complex were first announced in February. Eight facilities would have been closed in total, including libraries and leisure centres in Gorebridge and Mayfield.
The matter is still to go before a council vote on June 25, but Cllr Constable has reassured campaigners that none of the ruling administration will support demolition plans.
Cllr Constable said: “The commitment is that on the 25th of June at the council meeting, we will not vote to close any of the facilities. The consultation is not complete, but we’ve listened to our communities and that’s our response just now.”
Under the controversial plan, facilities would have been rehoused two miles away in the village of Easthouses.
The services would have been located at a rebuilt Newbattle Community High School, which is to be constructed at a cost of up to £36 million.
Last night, however, Cllr Constable raised the spectre of the axe falling elsewhere by saying there would be “lots of financial implications” as a result of the closures not taking place. He also refused to confirm whether the U-turn would threaten the new high school’s future.
Julie Read, chairwoman of the Newtongrange Library Action Group, said there is still a feeling of trepidation in the tight knit community which had to rebuild following the closure of the mines in the 1980s.
“We worked really hard and there’s been a lot of people involved to save these facilities,” she said. “It’s a strange feeling because we know they still have to vote. They’ve said nobody will be voting to close the facilities, but I think until it’s actually happened we’ll not be able to relax and celebrate.”
Newtongrange Community Council secretary Ron Campbell labelled the decision as a victory for people power. He said: “Right across the board, the three communities have each said ‘We want the facilities in the village’. It shows that when the public get together, they can achieve things.”