Anger as soft play facilities take a tumble

Craiglockhart Tennis Club
Craiglockhart Tennis Club
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A CHILDREN’S play area is to be closed in order to save money for the company that runs Edinburgh’s sports facilities.

The jungle-themed Tumbles soft play area at Craiglockhart Tennis Centre was only opened by Edinburgh Leisure two years ago to compensate for the loss of facilities during the Commonwealth Pool revamp.

But bosses at the trust have decided to close it down from next spring after it ran up losses of £33,000 a year.

It is the first of several cuts expected for the 2012/13 financial year as Edinburgh Leisure faces up to reductions in its funding from the council.

The last four Edinburgh Leisure creches were closed last year, and the company has also shut down the Crags Sports Centre and axed free swimming sessions for primary school-aged children.

The move to close the play area, which costs £4 per session, has been criticised by parents and community representatives.

Councillor Gordon Buchan, who represents the Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart ward, said: “We need to be more imaginative about how to ensure centres don’t incur losses.

“We have already lost creches and now we are going to lose a soft play area. It is certainly not encouraging people into sports centres.

“It is always full when I am there, kids seem to love it and at weekends it is stowed out.”

The closure of the centre will coincide with the opening of the Clambers soft play area at the Royal Commonwealth Pool.

Gavin Corbett, chairman of Craiglockhart Primary’s parent council, said: “I am disappointed that the provision is to close, especially since Craiglockhart is so poorly served by play facilities.

“It is all very well to say some might use the RCP but it is not exactly on the doorstep. If this provision is to close it would be good if the council could look at some kind of alternative play provision. There is very little between Harrison Park and the top end of Craiglockhart for families so this will be a loss.”

Edinburgh Leisure finished the 2010/11 financial year £448,000 over budget and is set to face a third successive four per cent reduction in its funding, totalling about £350,000, next April.

The cuts to be proposed, expected to be announced later this year, could focus on the city’s more prosperous communities in order to protect services in poorer areas.

John Comiskey, chief executive of Edinburgh Leisure, said: “Tumbles has been a valuable addition to Edinburgh Leisure’s soft play provision while the Royal Commonwealth Pool has been closed. However, as it is currently operating at a loss of approximately £33,000 per annum and a significant amount of Tumbles’ customers are likely to transfer to the newly-reopened Clambers [at the RCP], this operating loss is only likely to increase. We have, therefore, taken the decision to close Tumbles a few weeks prior to the reopening of the RCP.

“Clambers will be an excellent soft play facility catering for nought to nine-year-olds.”

mblackley@edinburghnews.com