Hub bid to halt Bonnyrigg centre demolition

Bonnyrigg Centre Trust members Lyndsey Johnstone with her sons. Picture: contributed
Bonnyrigg Centre Trust members Lyndsey Johnstone with her sons. Picture: contributed
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A MOTHBALLED leisure centre threatened with demolition is set to be transformed into a vibrant community hub and soft play centre under radical plans set to go before planners.

The vacant Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre was set to be razed to the ground in March but was granted a stay of execution while a trio of bids were prepared to save it from the bulldozers.

Now council officials in Midlothian have selected their preferred option – a venture to convert the building into a £370,000 community hub and soft play centre.

Submitted by the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust (BCT), it has emerged as the frontrunner to take forward the council leisure centre on a six-month trial on the “strict” condition the council will incur no costs.

Rival bids to create a fitness centre and gymnastics club have not been ruled out but have been eclipsed by the BCT project amid claims they are not as commercially viable.

Another proposal from nursery provider Bright Sparks would see part of the leisure centre demolished and the rest converted into a special needs playgroup.

Architect Douglas Strachan, representing BCT, said the project had already received £10,000 backing from a “secret millionaire” but would apply for additional funds to develop a new main entrance space, cafe, soft play centre and a function room.

“We have got a bit of momentum behind us, and we seem to be winning the argument,” he told the News.

“The authority seemed to be fairly persuaded by our idea. We want it run by the community for the community.”

But Mr Strachan railed against the decision to pit community groups against one another by creating a “competitive” rather than “collaborative” environment for ideas about transforming the leisure centre. He stressed the community campaign he fronted was comprised of around 20 different groups in the area.

Under the BCT plans, around £70,000 of “essential repairs” would be undertaken, bringing around a third of the building into use. A £300,000 redevelopment would revamp the entire building.

Ahead of today’s council meeting in Midlothian, around 50 campaigners are expected to take part in a BCT march from the new Morrisons supermarket in Dalkeith to the council headquarters under a police escort.

Several letters have been lodged with the local authority, backing the community hub and soft play plans.

Euan Davidson, 19, of Loanhead, said the bid reflected “all sections of the community and enjoys massive support amongst local people”.

Another letter by Maureen Deacon praised the efforts of campaigners to keep the building in use and urged the council to consider the option of keeping it open as a community-run venture.

She said: “The loss of Bonnyrigg Hub will be distressing for the community and I would advise Midlothian Council to think again and give a hearing to these wonderful citizens who are fighting for the right to use and keep this building.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com