Jo Lee: Community spirit can save leisure centre

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Today I witnessed an amazing result of a community coming together and changing the course of local history. A new High School has been built in Bonnyrigg which promises state of the art facilities. As a result, the existing leisure centre, below, in the local park was scheduled for demolition.

This wasn’t communicated well to the community and we found out inadvertently in a local meeting. A group gathered with the vision of reusing the building as a community facility with soft play for youngsters, cafe facilities for their parents and a bike workshop and hangout space for the town’s youth. Others have now joined us, bringing their hopes and dreams and vision for the centre.

Our biggest stumbling block to the realisation of these dreams has been the imminent threat of demolition at the end of August. 91 per cent of the local community, when asked, wanted the centre to be reused. Council officers, after reading our report, recommended that the centre be retained for at least six months to further engage with the local community. Today, Midlothian councillors voted to agree a stay of execution of at least six months. What we were told would be impossible has come to pass!

We could focus on the story of a rash decision to demolish the building and the fight to change that decision. We would rather the story be about a community that pulled together, that dared to dream and think big and has the capacity and enthusiasm and passion to provide for itself and care for each other as we experience life together. This is a story of a council which listened and heard us and is willing to take the more complex route of engaging with the local community to transfer this valuable asset. Above all, this is a story of hope and friendship and a future where everyone in our town has a place to belong, whether at the new Lasswade High School or at our Bonnyrigg centre. We will take a moment to celebrate today’s victory and tomorrow the hard work begins again!

Jo Lee is a community campaigner