Fury as recreation centre closes a day early over concerns for staff welfare

Locals who used Bo'ness Recreation Centre gathered to share memories on its final day
Locals who used Bo'ness Recreation Centre gathered to share memories on its final day -Credit:LDRS

Campaigners who had hoped to say a final goodbye to Bo'ness Recreation Centre and its staff today (Friday) were left reeling after the centre was closed a day early with no warning.

Falkirk Council announced the early closure around 9.30 pm last night (Thursday) saying there were "concerns about staff welfare".

That announcement sparked more anger from users of the centre who were already furious about the decision to close the centre.

Read more: Parents 'outraged' over plans to cut school week in Falkirk

Dawn Murray, of Save the Reccy Campaign, said she was "gobsmacked" when she heard.

"Who knew Falkirk Council could stoop so low? We are absolutely reeling from the betrayal," she said.

"People were invited to come along and say goodbye when the centre was closing for the last time but there has been absolutely nothing to suggest that the staff would be at risk at all.

"I feel as if this has been shut for the last two months - they've just been chipping away at different things to get to this point.

"People have seen how quickly the fencing has gone up and saying they wish the council had been so fast when there were repairs to be done!"

Many local people with fond memories of the centre had planned to visit on the final day - in particular to thank the staff who made the 'reccy' such a welcoming place for everyone.

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

The campaigners had decided against any form of demonstration but instead had urged people to come and share their memories of all the good times at the centre by putting posters and messages on the fencing.

Many Bo'ness locals learned to swim at the recreation centre - which opened in 1976 - then took their children and grandchildren too.

Some met their husbands and wives there while many made firm friendships through the gym, sauna and pool or at classes and groups.

Others credit the centre and its staff with literally saving their lives as they recovered from strokes, heart attacks, brain tumours and other serious illnesses.

Christine Somerville remembers how after breaking her leg and shattering her hip on holiday, the staff were incredibly supportive as they helped her 'power walk' up and down the pool, while she was so badly injured she couldn't swim.

With the fencing now surrounding it and workmen already busy inside, a group of users gathered outside, sad and angry at what they see as the final insult.

Campaigner Dorothy Ostacchini said: "The council have been sleekit to the end! They said it was concern for staff welfare but everyone was thanking the staff and wishing them well!

"The staff have all welcomed us and looked after us over the years as we used the reccy to keep fit.

"It's Falkirk Council who should hang their heads in shame!"

Many people expressed their anger on Facebook when the announcement was made.

Natalie Thomson commented: "The people of Bo'ness have done nothing but support and console the employees who've not only lost their jobs and relationships with loyal customers but seen such a great building and facilities go to wrack and ruin over Falkirk Councils neglect."

It was the final straw for campaigners who already felt that Falkirk Council had "kept moving the goalposts" as they fought to save their centre.

Despite councillors voting in December to give the building a reprieve for two years, in January councillors were asked to vote for immediate closure.

Falkirk Council said a report showed that the building was in category D state of repair, which meant it was “life expired and/or serious risk of imminent failure; risk of injury”.

The report urging closure also said that low usage of the facilities means it is costing the council around £1 million a year and was getting a much higher subsidy per visit than other facilities.

But members of the community are continuing to challenge the council through complaints to Audit Scotland and the Public Service Ombudsman.

Falkirk Council says that most of the groups and classes who used the centre have been accommodated in other venues.

The majority have transferred directly to Bo’ness Academy, while Active Forth classes will now take place at Bo'ness Town Hall.

The group leading the campaign to save the reccy say they will continue to campaign for better facilities for the town.

Today, however, was about showing their appreciation to the staff for all the support they have been given over many years.

One woman said: "We loved the rec and we loved the people who worked there.

"It's just so sad."

A spokesperson for Falkirk Council said: "As you will be aware following the decision to close Bo’ness Recreation Centre the last day of operations was to be today. Unfortunately, as a consequence of postings on social media, an incident yesterday and protest activities planned at the centre we have had to make the decision to close the venue early due to concerns for staff welfare.

"Since the original decision to close the centre officers have been working with sports clubs based at the Rec and have managed to relocate nearly all groups to alternative venues, with the majority transferred directly to Bo’ness Academy. Active Forth classes will now take place at Bo’ness Town Hall from Monday 6 May. The Rugby Club will change at Bo’ness Academy and the Sub-Aqua Club have moved to Mariner Centre. The main disruption is unfortunately, to public swimming which is restricted at the Academy in terms of hours available & gym users with the nearest alternative Falkirk Council venue at Grangemouth Sports Complex.

"In terms of future provision there remains a commitment to build an expanded community sports facility at Bo’ness Academy and designs for an extension comprising a new larger gym, changing rooms, multi-purpose studio and dedicated entrance are currently being developed and will be shared with members and the public as soon as possible.

"If agreed by Councillors work could commence on these new facilities as soon as August 2025 (upon expiry of the PPP contract) and be complete by Autumn 2026. In advance of the main works, we are also engaged with groups on extending the available hours (as subject to demand) for the existing sports facilities including the pool and will be looking to improve facilities at the Academy over the coming months. This is likely to include the provision of a new Rugby Pitch to support the Bo’ness Rugby Club expand its school of rugby capacity and enhance school sports provision."

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