08 October 2019
Hallglen Sports Centre Briefing Note
On the 29th of August 2019 the Trust informed Falkirk Council of the sudden failure of Hallglen Sports Centre’s heating system. This led to the announcement of the closure of this facility given our concern for the general health and well-being of our customers and staff, pending a longer term decision being taken by the Council on the future operation of the building.
A ‘Briefing Note’ was displayed throughout the facility on the date of its issue, clubs and customers were contacted either by telephone or by face to face meetings, a press release was provided to the local press and discussions began in an attempt to relocate as many of our customers and groups as possible.
The Trust intimated that the likely closure would occur towards the end of September and despite a fall in temperatures at the end of that period we allowed the Forth Valley Gymnastics Club, (FVGC), to host their event on the last weekend of September. However, temperatures dropped to low single figures at the start of October and a subsequent discussion has been taken to close the facility from the end of business on Friday the 11th of October.
No funds have been provided that would enable the necessary works to be undertaken. The estimated costs are approximately £600k, to simply return the facility to a operational condition. Even if the funds had been found the time taken to complete the work would not have allowed customers to continue to use the facility when there is no heating at all within the facility.
The Trust consider it inappropriate to operate the facility without heating, given the obvious well-being and safety issues that will impact on the predominant use of the facility by children in the gymnastics and cheerleader clubs. The sportshall has been without heating for some time now, however all other parts of the facility had heating until this latest failure.
Whilst the Trust communicated this position to all of their customers and clubs and attempted to relocate as many as possible, it was acknowledged that there would be a significant impact on the larger clubs as their needs were unlikely to be satisfied.
In the last six weeks almost all of the existing customers have been found alternative accommodation, including the Cheerleaders group who will have been relocated to Zetland Park pavilion in the next few weeks. This facility will allow them almost sole use and avoid them having to lift and lay their specific floor, each time they use the facility.
However, it was always anticipated that the most difficult Club to relocate was going to be the FVGC, given their specific request for a sports hall of a similar size, storage for their amount of specialist equipment and their unwillingness to consider other options suggested by the Trust.
Correspondence from parents of children within this Club, received by the Trust on Monday the 7th of October, has been most critical of the Trust, which is both unfounded and unfair. It is also of some surprise to the Trust that such correspondence has been received only a few days before the closure of the facility given the length of time that has elapsed since the position of the facility became widely known and referred to in the local press. The Trust did not contact the Club members about the facility closure directly, firstly because they do not, nor should have, access to such members’ details, but on the presumption that the FVGC lead would ensure the situation was well known to their members. Posters were however displayed throughout the facility to advise all of our casual customers and there has been much discussion by a local group in their consideration of taking over the operation and management of this facility, involving local members and a local MSP.
Members will also recall that in anticipation of the expected closure of the Hallglen Sports Centre, the Trust provided an alternative site at Stenhousemuir. The Trust converted Stenhousemuir Sports Centre into what is now known as the Carron Gymnastics Centre, at a cost of approximately £150k which they self-funded. This converted facility became operational in January of this year with the support of two local gymnastic clubs and is performing very well.
What was particularly disappointing throughout the Trust’s planning and preparation for this converted facility was the FVGC’s stance that they had no wish to relocate to any new facility and indeed especially one so far away from Hallglen. One of FVGC’s reasons for not moving to the Trust’s new facility is that the sports hall to be converted was too small. However FVGC currently use an equipment store to begin their gymnasts’ run-ups, which is certainly not ideal. The new Carron Gymnastics centre had the capability of being extended to accommodate the Club’s specific request. It is therefore clear to both the Trust and the Council that FVGC simply wanted to remain at the Hallglen facility and this has been reinforced by their ongoing lobbying of local elected members, MSPs and MPs to provide sufficient funds to repair the Hallglen facility.
The Trust has been specifically concerned about the young gymnasts currently involved in the FVGC, however there are other clubs in the wider Falkirk area (albeit none that offer the specific nature of ‘Teamgym’ activities offered by the FVGC), so it was hoped that the children could be accommodated within other gymnastics clubs in the area to continue their involvement in the wider sport of gymnastics. It is encouraging to note that in the last few days Trust staff have received telephone calls from the parents of FVGC gymnasts, seeking to join the Trust’s Gymnastic courses or other Gymnastics Clubs in the area, which the Trust can support.
A number of discussions have been held with Jacqui Inglis, the owner of the FVGC, on potential spaces within existing facilities that might support her Club as a temporary measure, however none of these had been considered as appropriate by FVGC.
A vacant unit has been suggested by the Council as an alternative facility. This would require some building work, with the necessary building warrant approval and a lease arrangement with the Council, both of which will take some time to prepare. FVGC has still to determine if this facility could meet their needs.
FVGC has also submitted a planning application for another vacant and commercially operated unit and at this time they await the outcome of the Council’s decision on this particular site.
In conclusion, FVGC has known about the deteriorating condition of this facility for some years but have been unwilling to consider alternative facilities and options, such as the Carron Gymnastics Centre, by opting to focus their efforts on remaining within Hallglen Sports Centre. This is sadly no longer possible given the total failure of its heating system and associated building related issues.
The Trust is pleased to have been able to relocate all but one of its customer groups in such a short space of time and remain willing to further discuss options for the FVGC gymnasts. Some floor space exists within other Trust operated sites and a review of their programmes is continuing to ascertain if some of the FVGC gymnasts could be accommodated, even on a temporary basis, pending a longer term solution being found. Braes High School has always been an option for mid-week use that FVGC is only now considering. It is understood from Scottish Gymnastics that FVGC has found an allocation of time and space for their more competent gymnasts within alternative facilities in Stirling and Alloa.
The Council’s Development Services are preparing a report on their Strategic Property Review for the consideration by the Council and it is understood that this may make recommendations on the way forward for properties such as Hallglen Sports Centre over the longer term.