East Lothian leisure centre staff 'forced to lock doors' from feral gang of youths

loch centre
-Credit: (Image: Google maps)

Staff at an East Lothian leisure centre were reportedly forced to lock themselves in as a 'gang of youths' circled menacingly outside.

It is understood the group forced staff to take necessary precautions at the Loch Centre in Tranent on Thursday night to ensure the safety of colleagues and customers.

It comes after we reported how a terrified local mum had a rock thrown through her car window while she was parked outside the centre - showering her motor in shards of glass.

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Bill Axon, Chief Executive of Enjoy Leisure, who run the centre, has reaffirmed the safety of colleagues is "top priority" and they are "committed to tackling all forms of antisocial behaviour."

It is understood Enjoy Leisure is also working with various authorities including local schools and Police Scotland to combat a growing number of incidents in the area.

After being contacted about recent events by Edinburgh Live, a spokesperson for Police Scotland confirmed it is aware of a number of recent incidents and the force is engaging with young people to deter such behaviour.

Kirsty Lyus, who was left "shaken and upset" after her car was damaged by a rock thrown towards it after leaving the centre has been left out of pocket after paying to repair the damage and hire a car while it gets fixed.

She added how staff at the centre's reception reportedly made an announcement for colleagues' assistance on Thursday after a number of youths congregated outside before the front doors were locked with staff forced to put the safety and wellbeing of customers and each other first.

The mum-of-two said: "I was really lucky - the size of the rock was really substantial and there was real intent behind what they threw and the force they had to throw it with because when I looked up and out I couldn't see anything but then I saw the back of someone running away.

"I phoned the police and they were so kind as I was really distressed. They explained they couldn't get an officer out to me but asked if I could go to Musselburgh police station to make a statement.

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"I was really fortunate I wasn't physically injured but as for the aftermath, they just don't think about the consequences of what throwing that rock has done to me," she added.

"I've got two children and my car can't get repaired until the end of June and I've got the cost of hiring a car until then. There's such a knock-on effect they gave no thought or consideration to.

"Had they hit me with the stone they could have been looking at another outcome. They definitely saw me get in to the car and knew I was sat there but still chose to throw it anyway, that for me is a whole different level and you're making a choice there to harm someone, not just vandalise their property."

Bill Axon, Chief Executive of Enjoy Leisure, said: "Like other businesses in East Lothian, we have been experiencing some antisocial behaviour at our facilities. We are working with various authorities and partners, including local schools and Police Scotland, to explore ways to combat these incidents.

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"Colleague safety is our top priority, and we are committed to tackling all forms of antisocial behaviour."

A Police Scotland spokesperson said: “We are aware of a small number of recent incidents of antisocial behaviour in the Tranent area. Officers are working with partners to engage with young people and deter this type of behaviour.

“The vast majority of young people are responsible and considerate when out and about in our local communities. However, I would ask for the support of parents and carers, to promote positive behaviours and ensure you know where your children are and what they are doing.

“Anyone with any information about anti-social behaviour, should contact Police Scotland on 101.”

Local councillor Lee-Anne Menzies, who was present during the incident on Thursday evening, passed on her well wishes to Kirsty and hailed the management team at the centre for putting protections in place for staff.

She added: "My thoughts go the woman who was impacted by this act of thoughtless vandalism. It is very lucky that no one was physically hurt. She was scared and felt threatened and no one deserves that going home from their work.

"The Loch Centre have an excellent management team, I am sure they have protections in place for their staff. As a Board Member for Enjoy, I will be following this up to ensure staff safety stays our top priority.

"Lastly, these boys did not act in isolation. They're not living in a vacuum. Our society is becoming more and more unequal. If you are born and live in a poor area, you are less likely to have better outcomes in your life. This is all evidenced. For many years, our local focus has not been on the children and young people. We have very little youth provision in and around Tranent, and what we do have is not aimed at these youngsters.

"We could label them "hard to reach" but in reality, they are easy to ignore by decision makers locally. I know that we have a rising anti-social behaviour issue in and around Tranent but it's far too easy to blame the youngsters for that. What have we given them to do? What do we organise to keep them engaged and active within our communities?

"The reality is, we have reduced our children and young peoples' services to next to nothing, over many, many years, and now we're paying the price for it. If we don't give youngsters something to keep them busy, they will find something and it will usually mean some trouble and in the end, it costs us far more as a society.

"Where are our youth clubs? Where are the free playschemes? What do we expect them to do?

"This is not excusing their behaviour. They must take responsibility and be held accountable. But I expect the same for the many adults who have let them down. As decision makers in the Council, WE must take responsibility and start funding youth provision in our most deprived areas. WE must look at how we are tackling inequality and ask ourselves if we are doing enough. WE are not!

"Times are very difficult for us all. But they haven't always been and our youth provision didn't disappear yesterday. It's time for us adults in the room to take responsibility, admit where we have gotten it wrong, and do better.

"I make no excuses for the youngsters who carried out this act. I will not therefore make any excuses for the adults who have stripped back our youth provisions and left many with no free and meaningful activities to keep them occupied. After all, we are their Corporate Parents."