Centre users vow to fight closure

GROUPS that use the Newton Stewart Community Centre on York Road say they were stunned to learn in last week’s Galloway Gazette that the building could be put up for sale by the council.

One irate resident said the community centre’s management had not been told directly that the venue could be sold by the council to cut costs, adding that local councillors have “little knowledge” of the activities taking place there.

Bill Scott, who has been involved with the management of the town’s community centre for 40 years, wrote to the Gazette to say the present community centre is tailored to the needs of the groups that use it and alternative venues would not be as suitable.

He said there were members’ group as diverse as dancers, majorettes, Scouts, quilters and karate. Access to the building was good and the interior was maintained to a high standard, he added.

Moving to the McMillan Hall, as had been suggested, would be unsuitable as that building was “built for a bygone age and internally is largely unsuitable for modern usage”.

Moving some of the centre’s classes to the Douglas Ewart High School was also fraught with problems, said Mr Scott, as “there is a mismatch between the needs of the school and external users”.

The community centre is used

by approximately 22 different groups and the threat of closure brought a raft of diverse comments on The Galloway Gazette’s Facebook page:

Among them were:

“Absolutely shocking terrible news for the community.”

“The right move, saving money at the end of the day!”

“Fine if it saves costs.”

“Why did they no use the McMillan Hall in the first place?”

“For a start £40 an hour to use the hall would put many small clubs and groups out of the running.”

“Biggest concern is that I can’t see anyone wanting to buy the old B block. It’s going to end up like the other block that the junior players rented for a while – windows smashed and left to rot.”

Mid Galloway Councillor Graham Nicol said: “With the magnitude of the savings which have to found by all local authorities, including Dumfries and Galloway Council, it is only right that all possibilities if savings are looked at.

“Potentially one of the main areas of saving is property rationalisation. The idea is to get rid of our most energy inefficient buildings as part of this consolidation because we have to reduce our carbon footprint to fall in with Scottish government policy or we will be severely penalised as an authority.

“This will come as a proposed budget saving, along with many others, across the region and may be included in the council budget which will be set on February 7. After that, if it is adopted as a policy, consultation with all the groups potentially affected will take place.

“I am happy to meet with the repres­entatives of the users groups at the Newton Stewart Community Centre at any time to hear their concerns if they so wish.”