Gauntlet in school talks

Don Ledingham
Don Ledingham

A gauntlet has been thrown down for people to look at the cost of keeping community facilities open before challenging council proposals to move them to the new Newbattle High School.

As previously reported, plans to close eight venues in Mayfield, Newtongrange and Gorebridge and house the libraries, community and sports facilities at a state-of-the-art new school instead have sparked an outcry amongst locals.

A second wave of the consultation process is under way, with the man steering it – Don Ledingham – attending meetings in the three catchment communities involved.

He told last week’s Mayfield and Easthouses Community Council that details would be circulated this week giving a breakdown of the cost of keeping, closing or handing over the facilities for the community to run itself.

Mr Ledingham wants people to look at those figures first and then “challenge” the council’s plans.

He said: “The information we have gathered so far has been really helping us to take on the challenges we face.

“We hope to circulate a paper next week with detailed figures of what changes to the three communities could mean financially.

“If we don’t close facilities then we will continue to be throwing money away in maintaining these buildings. Once we get the figures together we can show people the reality of keeping these facilities open.

“We have to think about how long community facilities can be maintained and what the communities might look like in five, 10, 15 years time.

“It’s not our job to persuade people, it’s to really engage with the facts. The key word for me is respect. We have to respect people’s opinions and feelings.

“But my worry is we keep the facilities open and then in 10-15 years time they have to close and we are left with nothing. We want people to engage with that reality, say we are not right and challenge that if they disagree.”

Mayfield has most to gain from the move, as the new school will be closer than the current one. However, a Facebook campaign has been set up to ‘Save Mayfield Library’.

Community council chairman Robert Hogg said he wanted to keep an “open mind” over the proposals but had sympathy for the other catchment communities further away from the proposed ‘Mayfield complex’.

“We want services to stay but we are realistic with regards to finances and we want the best possible school for our children. And if, for example, the leisure centre was to go, we have got to look at whether or not the building can be taken on by the community.

“I would urge everybody to email their questions on this to the council or attend the public meetings.

“I have got a lot of sympathy for Gorebridge, hopefully the community hub will help, but I hope the council take community concerns on board.”

Mr Ledingham revealed plans for a management committee for the new school, with representatives from each of the communities.

He said staff working in the buildings under threat will be given detailed briefings on what the future might hold, as local people had been quizzing them regarding the plans.

Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat South Scotland MSP Jim Hume has backed the campaign to stop the closure of libraries and other community facilities.

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