Bright Sparks charity chosen for Bonnyrigg centre

The former Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre building has been saved from demolition, and will now become home to children's charity Bright Sparks.
The former Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre building has been saved from demolition, and will now become home to children's charity Bright Sparks.
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A Charity for children with disabilities has been selected to use the Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre in a move which saves the building from demolition.

Midlothian councillors agreed today not to demolish the building and that its preferred use should be to accommodate local charities Bright Sparks.

However, Council Leader, Councillor Owen Thompson argued that if further investigations found the Bright Sparks’ option was no feasible, community group the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd should be allowed to let the building for six months.

The trust wants to take over the building as a community asset and to use it for, among other facilities, a soft play centre.

Members were asked to vote for two options, the first to accommodate Bright Sparks in the former leisure centre.

The second option was to make Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd the preferred bidder and to let the building to it for six months before reviewing the situation. The council would incur no costs before, during or after other than demolition.

A majority of the councillors - 14 - voted in favour of Bright Sparks while two councillors voted for Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd as the preferred bidder.

Members also rejected two other formal bids to take over the building from community groups Bonnyrigg & Sherwood Community Development Trust and LO-GY.

Bright Sparks, which provides playgroup, holiday activities and after school support for children with complex additional needs and their families, wants to relocate to the back area of the former leisure centre from its current base at the council-owned Cockpen Centre.

Midlothian Council Leader Councillor Owen Thompson said: “We had always said we would look at all options for the building and this opportunity for Bright Sparks could enable the charity to expand the excellent work it does.

“Demand for its services has steadily increased in recent years, which is why it’s looking to move to bigger premises. The extra space would potentially be around three times the size of Cockpen and it would allow the charity to develop a real centre for excellence for play provision for children with a variety of disabilities.”

Midlothian Council currently funds Bright Sparks to provide playgroup support for children aged 0-5. The group also raises money for range of activities after school and during holiday periods for children aged 0-11. If Bright Sparks did move, the council would pay for the running costs of maintaining and running the former leisure centre along with demolishing part of the building as Bright Sparks only requires the rear.

The building was vacated in 2013 when the new £38 million Lasswade Centre community hub opened.

Councillor Owen Thompson said: “We received two very strong approaches, from Bright Sparks and Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Limited.

“The majority decision was to back Bright Sparks. However, we’ll continue to support and empower communities to run community facilities when we can just as we have done with, for example the Glencorse Centre in Auchendinny, the Brown Building at Gorebridge and the Bayne Memorial Hall in Loanhead. We also gifted land for the community facility, the Kabin in Loanhead.”

Cllr Thompson added that he would certainly not be against giving the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd another chance should the Bright Sparks option not be feasible.