Edinburgh's Gate 55 community centre in Sighthill left off list of venues being switched back from Covid test centres

Council chiefs are under pressure to reopen Sighthill's Gate 55 community centre after it was left off the list of venues being switched back from Covid test centres to their normal use.
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A host of classes and community activities were suspended or forced to move elsewhere when Gate 55 was shut nearly two years ago.

Sighthill library, which is based at the centre, was one of several city libraries to close when their buildings were made available to serve for Covid testing.

Edinburgh's Gate 55 community centre in Sighthill left off list of venues being switched back from Covid test centresEdinburgh's Gate 55 community centre in Sighthill left off list of venues being switched back from Covid test centres
Edinburgh's Gate 55 community centre in Sighthill left off list of venues being switched back from Covid test centres
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And although the test centre is based in the gym rather than the library, hopes were raised that the whole place would reopen after the Scottish Government agreed to a request from depute council leader Cammy Day to hand back the libraries still being used for testing.

However, when the council announced plans to reopen Oxgangs, Leith and Newington libraries from the end of April, it said Sighthill would remain closed because Wester Hailes library was nearby.

Now disappointed locals are calling for Gate 55 to return to normal use as quickly as possible.

Alicija Wypasek, of community-led charity B Healthy Together, used to run cooking and fitness classes for mums at the centre.

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“Gate 55 provides a really good kitchen, a spacious place for cooking groups; the building has good access, there's parking and everything is on the ground floor, which is really useful when you have a buggy.

"There's no alternative place around. In Broomhouse there's a building but it's booked solid and it has no kitchen – and it's hard to run a cooking class without a kitchen.”

She now teaches some of the fitness classes outdoors, but has often had to cancel recently because of the weather.

"Lots of people are asking for Gate 55 to reopen. We really need the place. It was almost always fully booked. There were Active Schools clubs, basketball, karate, yoga.”

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Ross McKenzie, Labour candidate for Sighthill/Gorgie in May’s council elections, said it was vital to get the centre open again.

“It has been closed for two years now. There are organisations that use that space and haven’t been able to find alternatives. Basic services like the classes helping parents to cook and exercise are not being relaunched as a result.

“The idea that Wester Hailes is close misunderstands the area. It might be close to the building physically, but Sighthill library is used by people on the other side of Calder Road – Broomhouse, Saughton Mains.

"This is a unique facility and it needs to be reopened as soon as possible, as we were promised.”

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Mark Hooley, the Tory candidate for the ward, also called for Gate 55’s immediate reopening.

He said: "This is a valuable resource at the heart of the community in the Sighthill/Gorgie ward. It also serves communities in the surrounding areas of Broomhouse and Parkhead, providing vital space for charities and community groups.

"Other facilities used as Covid testing centres across the city are being handed back to local communities. This community should not be left behind or ignored yet again."

Culture and communities convener Donald Wilson said it was a priority for the council to have libraries back up and running.

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"We all recognise the value of these facilities to local communities, and the understandable demand to bring them back into use.

"The UK Government announced this week that free symptomatic testing sites will end from April so we expect to have Sighthill Library (Gate 55) handed back to us after that time.

“We will do everything in our power to have the library reopen as soon as possible after that and will keep the local community regularly updated. In the meantime library facilities are available at Wester Hailes Library for community use on a temporary basis. Let’s be clear we are committed to the full restitution of full Library services at Gate 55 and as one of the councillors responsible for its creation I understand more than most its value.”

Read More
Edinburgh council confirms reopening of libraries used as Covid testing centres

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