Parents criticise 'lifeline' Auchinleck leisure centre closure

Parents have criticised the closure of a "lifeline" leisure centre in East Ayrshire.

Auchinleck Leisure Centre is set to close in November but local residents have vowed to fight the decision.

The closure also spells the end of the Cumnock Dolphins - a swimming club which has been around for 60 years.

The trust which runs the facility for the local council said the closure was due to finances and local leisure provision would be maintained.

East Ayrshire Leisure Trust said Visions Leisure Centre and the Barony school campus, both in nearby Cumnock, would absorb the services on offer at the centre without disruption.

Visions Leisure Centre said club officials at Cumnock Dolphins were contacted and offered pool space, but the offer was declined due to compatibility.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition to save the Auchinleck facility.

Locals fear that the change could lead to increased costs.

Kirsteen Havlin, who is on a committee to save the Auchinleck Leisure Centre, said it was essential for the community.

"Auchinleck is a deprived area and it often ranks low for health and employment," she said. "So this sort of facility is a lifeline.

"We've been told that Visions will be holding classes instead, but the membership is almost double the cost.

"And the travel through to Cumnock for those who don't drive is infrequent and just another cost on top of that."

She said a full membership at the Auchinleck centre costs £20, compared with £37.50 at Visions.

The Cumnock Dolphins swimming club announced it was folding in light of the leisure centre closure after teaching local children for decades.

Ms Havlin said that, compared to the Auchinleck pool, the Visions pool had limited capacity and opening times, as well as a shallower pool.

She added: "They find it difficult to accommodate the current classes they've got, so to say the classes in Auchinleck will just flow into their timetable is just not feasible at all.

"Our children are really going to lose out if the leisure centre closes."

Sarah Kelly learned to swim at the club while it was based at the Cumnock outdoor pool, which closed nearly 20 years ago.

She competed in several swimming competitions and had a successful swimming career before going on to teach children at the Cumnock Dolphins.

"My two children also attend the Cumnock Dolphins swimming lessons and they have an absolute blast and they've come on leaps and bounds," she said.

She added that there were other swimming sessions attended by other members of the community as well as numerous other clubs such as gymnastics, dancing and taekwondo.

"We have no idea where they will go," she said. "The children need this centre for their physical and mental wellbeing - there's very little for the children to do in the area."

Lesley-Anne Gibson, from Auchinleck, launched the petition urging the council to keep the centre open.

She said: "I started the petition because my daughter's football club runs from inside the leisure centre, and I find it highly unlikely they'll be able to accommodate it elsewhere.

"Visions is earmarked to take on the swimming lessons but they already can't accommodate with the current demand with Auchinleck being open.

"I often hear about kids swimming lessons having long waiting lists and spaces being extremely rare, so how can they take on more?"

East Ayrshire Leisure Trust said the future of leisure provision in Auchinleck and Cumnock had been under review for several years.

The trust commissioned an independent study of Auchinleck Leisure Centre in May 2022 which recommended closing the pool due to "associated significant cost implications".

The recommendations included demolishing the former Auchinleck Academy and upgrading the lighting at the Auchinleck Academy football pitch.