Falkirk councillor says SNP will 'pay at election time' for closing community centre

A councillor who left the SNP to stand as an Independent says the party will be punished at the ballot box for its role in closing Bo'ness Recreation Centre.

The leisure centre and swimming pool was closed by Falkirk Council last week despite a campaign by residents to save it.

Councillors were told that it would cost £4 million just to repair the centre, which was costing around £1m to operate per year.

Read more: Fury as recreation centre closes a day by Falkirk Council over fears for staff welfare

Councillor Ann Ritchie said those who had been involved in the 'Save the Reccy' campaign would now turn their attention to making sure the promised replacement facilities will be "what the town needs".

Falkirk Council has pledged to spend £3 million improving the leisure facilities at Bo'ness Academy but these will not be open until autumn 2026 at the earliest.

Councillor Ritchie said closing the rec centre has "left a bad taste" for local residents and she fully expects the SNP and Conservatives - who voted for closure - to pay at the ballot box.

She said: "The electorate in Bo'ness and Blackness will remember what they've done. They are going to find out in the future at elections how the people feel because that's all I'm hearing is people saying 'wait until the next elections and they'll find out how we feel'.

"It was the SNP that brought this forward - they and the Tories have a lot to answer for - they both voted for closure.

Fencing at Bo'ness Recreation Centre
Thanks for the memories - local people have been swapping memories and making their feelings clear to Falkirk Council -Credit:LDRS

"I don't know how many times we get told by the administration that they listen to residents - they've not done that in Bo'ness!

"Bo'ness folk feel very let down by what's happened - it's just not fair!"

"When decisions are made people say in time people will forget - I don't think they will forget because they have left Bo'ness without facilities - that didn't need to happen."

One of the messages put on the fence now surrounding Bo'ness Recreation Centre
One of the messages put on the fence now surrounding Bo'ness Recreation Centre -Credit:LDRS

But the SNP say that a lack of investment by previous administrations led to the final report that found the centre to be at the end of life and to the swimming pool having to close due to safety fears.

An SNP spokesperson commented: “While the decision to close Bo’ness Recreation Centre on health and safety grounds came as a shock to both the Council and community, it cannot be overstated that the safety of council staff and members of the public is absolute priority.

“Of course, we can’t underestimate the significant impact of decisions taken in the past that have disregarded the needs of our communities, like rejecting £50 million investment for sports and leisure facilities in 2019. We shouldn’t dwell on the past but must ensure that it informs our future through the decisions we need to make during this Council term.

“The depth of feeling amongst those who have campaigned to save the Recreation Centre must not be ignored. They have every right to feel the way they do but the communities of Bo’ness, like many others, deserve investment in modern services that are fit for purpose.

"That is why we are investing over £3 million to deliver a new community access sports and leisure facility attached to Bo’ness Academy, with officers working tirelessly to ensure that it meets modern-day expectations and is sustainable for the next 20-30 years.

“The SNP have always been clear that difficult decisions need to be made, but that we are unrelenting in our objectives to ensure Falkirk Council delivers for our communities today, and well into the future.”

For more Falkirk news, sign up to our newsletter here.