Falkirk Council looks at plans to open school swimming pools and leisure facilities to public
Ideas to open up schools’ swimming pools and other leisure facilities to the public are being considered, councillors have been told.
Kenneth Lawrie, chief executive, told councillors that “up and down the country” other councils were looking at options for bringing facilities together to “improve income and reduce costs.”
Mr Lawrie made his remarks at a special full council meeting on Wednesday, as members discussed the future of Falkirk Community Trust.
For the past 10 years, the arms-length organisation has overseen the district’s culture, arts and sports services – but that will change in April, when it comes back under full council control.
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While some members, who were opposed to the change, questioned the idea of schools replacing leisure centres, Mr Lawrie said that his own experience had taught him that it could be a success.
He said: “Where a school, a health centre, a library, a swimming pool were separate, if you bring them together – albeit that might be controversial – once it is done you tend to find there is a high degree of buy-in and much great usage, growing income and reduced costs.”
Using schools more to replace ageing leisure facilities has been discussed for several years by councillors as part of the ongoing strategic property review, which aims to close outdated facilities.
Now, as the facilities come under full council control, they will face intense scrutiny to see where savings can be made.
Robert Naylor, director of children’s services, said he believed making better use of schools would increase community access.
As sport and leisure will soon come into the children’s services’ portfolio, he said he already had “fairly detailed” discussions about how to improve access and how that might also generate income.
Councillor David Aitchison said that he was concerned using Bo’ness Academy facilities in place of the recreation centre would lead to reduced opening times for pensioners in particular who would not choose to go at weekends or evenings.
Mr Naylor said it would not necessarily mean restricting access to times outwith school hours, although this was likely to be the case at first.