The changing face of sport in the Borders

BORDERS sports facilities could become unrecognisable if the recommendations being put before councillors are accepted.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 4:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th September 2010, 4:03 pm

Despite Scottish Borders Council spending less per resident on leisure and recreation than 26 of Scotland's 31 councils cost cutting is inevitable and the council instructed consultants to look at all sports facilities in the region.

Their findings and recommendations are that sports provision in all main settlements should no longer be the goal and that the council "should make a conscious decision to move away from 'It's ay been'."

Three sports hubs would be developed for football and rugby, at Duns, Peebles and Galashiels, with 3G artificial turf pitches (ATPs); facilities being shared by a number of clubs.

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A regional sports centre would be developed - at either Netherdale or Tweedbank - catering for athletics, cricket, tennis, etc.

And the region is unlikely to be able to sustain its current level of seven swimming pools - either Selkirk pool or the Teviotdale Leisure Centre earmarked for closure. And reduced opening hours for the remaining pools could be on the cards.

"Non-statutory services like sport are likely to suffer disproptionately from limitations in expenditure," say consultants Kit Campbell Associates on the first page of their report. "The challenge is to be willing to think - and do - what has in the past been unthinkable.

"Sports provision in the Borders is at something of a crossroads. The present network of pools in particular is financially unsustainable; opportunities for the development of performance and excellence are very limited; and the Borders has no facilities other than rugby grounds and cycle trails that can stage major events."

Executive member for sport, culture and community learning, Councillor Graham Garvie, explained: "The report highlights that the status-quo in relation to the current provision of sports facilities in the Borders is not a long-term sustainable option. We are passionate about sport in the Borders so we need to maintain the momentum we have gained over several years to ensure that we continue to meet the needs of our athletes of all ages and abilities.

"There is no doubt there are some challenging times ahead, but we need to take on board these recommendations and consider making some very important decisions that will lay strong foundations for the long term development of sport and recreation in our region."

SBC and Borders Sport and Leisure Trust (BSLT) are now planning meetings and a major sporting conference which will bring together individuals and sporting bodies across the Borders in an effort to further dissect the report and discuss the way forward.

Leader of SBC, Councillor David Parker, commented: "We are faced with declining resources and rising aspirations among both local and national sporting bodies so the longer we leave these decisions, the harder it will be."

The consultants sought views from SBC officials, NHS Borders, BSLT, the East of Scotland Institute of Sport and SportScotland, community councils, sports clubs, volunteers, sports trusts, sports councils, sports groups, senior managers in further and higher education institutions, SBC's sports team and other members of the public.

Tony Taylor, chairman of Borders Sport and Leisure Trust, said: "We have been aware for some time of the difficulties we face in maintaining sports facilities across the Borders at the levels we would like, and the current economic climate and increased pressures facing local authorities have created a very bleak future for sport and facilities in the Borders.

"This independent report has underlined a lot of what we knew already, but also provided some detailed information on where problems lie. It is also a clear message that failure to act soon will only lead to critical problems."

Councillor Garvie concluded: "We aim to have finalised proposals, including detailed costs and plans in place, to put before the council early in 2011.

"Meantime, I would encourage sporting organisations, clubs, community councils, coaches, individual sportsmen, sportswomen and any other interested groups also to look carefully and strategically at the report's findings so that we can achieve as much consensus as possible on the way forward for sports facilities in the Borders."