SPORTS fans who use school grounds face price increases of more than 100 per cent under a new charging scheme, sparking warnings that young people will be driven away from exercise.
Standard hourly prices will apply to facilities ranging from 3G pitches to swimming pools in an effort to iron out “large variation” in charges applied by different schools and ensure “consistency” across the Capital.
Revised fees range from £35 for adults looking to hire sports halls to a £16 OAP and junior rate for use of four lanes in a 15-metre pool.
Proposed alongside a package of measures aimed at boosting community access to schools, the changes have been slammed as “detrimental” to sports clubs and other users after it emerged some charges could more than double.
Simon Flockhart, fundraising co-ordinator for City of Edinburgh basketball club, which trains at Portobello High, said: “For most sports clubs, facilities are hard to come by at the best of times.
“Getting access can be difficult and having to pay a premium can have an adverse effect on the numbers being able to access these different sports. This could have a ripple effect on a number of sports in the city, not just basketball.”
While some will see their charges stay the same or even drop, the changes mean those at the lower end of the current range – many based in some of the city’s poorest neighbourhoods – face shelling out significantly more.
OAPs and juniors who have paid £11 an hour for use of a sports hall at Drummond High are likely to see this rise to £23.30, while adult rates for four lanes in Trinity’s pool are set to be hiked from £15.41 to £28.
Mr Flockhart – who plays centre for City of Edinburgh and Scotland’s national basketball squad – called on school chiefs to preserve flexibility when new charges are brought in from April next year.
“It’s more inclusive that way,” he said. “Facilities at some schools are bigger than others. I think that looking at individual cases and being flexible will be much more beneficial to sports clubs.”
The concern has been echoed by Susan Heron, vice-chair of the parent council at Castlebrae Community High, which hosts a range of activity sessions for locals.
She said: “I think flexibility must definitely be there. When we were sitting for that good few months as part of the working group, it was more about bums on seats than revenue.” But education chiefs said their new pricing scheme was about creating a “level playing field”.
Councillor Cathy Fullerton, chair of the community access to schools working group, said: “It’s important that people are encouraged to use the quality facilities we have.”