In May 2007 Midlothian Council were believed to have sold off this community facility in the town centre. It remained in use over that summer. For the rest of the year and through 2008 to 2009 the premises have remained locked and empty, surrounded by tarmac and railings, and still in Council ownership.  Action in the community began in 2009 to bring this attractive old building and the open space around it back to beneficial local activity once again, with meetings and an exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall on 31 October 2009.

See

Business Plan for Jackson Street School prepared by PCDT

and submitted to Midlothian Council on 2 November 2009

2010 CAMPAIGN FOR JACKSON STREET SCHOOL

 

 

This is PCEA’s note of the 2006 public meeting on the closure of Jackson Street School:

 

Penicuik Community Education Association

www.penicuikcommunityeducationassociation.net

Penicuik Community Learning Centre,      Carnethy Community Learning Centre

Jackson Street,                                                   Muirhead Place,

Penicuik.                                                            Penicuik.

EH26 9BQ                                                         EH26 0LE

Tel/fax: 01968 679234                                      Tel/fax: 01968 673594

 

Meeting of 30th May 2006 in Penicuik Community Learning Centre to address its closure, attended by users, user group representatives, Councillors, and at the request of some users, MSPs to clarify alternative accommodation position as a result of Midlothian Council's decision of 7th February 2006.

 

The purpose of the meeting was to facilitate discussion by allowing users to voice points of view and opinions in an effort to find new secure accommodation on at least a par with the Jackson Street situation where all groups can store their valuable equipment securely in a comfortable relaxed environment or save the Jackson Community Learning Centre from closure. The presence of Midlothian Councillors and officials would ensure that members of the community would be given the real reasons for closure instead of relying on rumours and hearsay.  MSPs were also invited to contribute to the meeting.

 

The meeting began in controversy as Mr. Adam Montgomery, leader of Midlothian Council, made his exit. Apparently refusing to participate owing to the presence of MSPs Catherine Graham and Jeremy Purvis. Angry users were disappointed as they hoped to gain support from Mr. Montgomery with his influence in the Midlothian Cabinet. Instead the one hundred in attendance felt let down. "Once again Midlothian Council refuse to listen"; "What an insult! It proves they are not interested in the Penicuik Community" and "Our Councillors should wake up and listen to what the Penicuik Community want" were clearly heard from the floor.

 

Colin McCall, chairperson of Penicuik Community Education Association, ensured that all user groups were identified and his presentation made all aware of the diversity of activities participated in at the Penicuik Learning Centre. During the presentation valuable contributions were made to the meeting by those using the Jackson Street Centre. Their delight in using 'Jackson Street School ' was obvious. " We do not need to move anywhere else.  Everything we need is here " followed by " The Jackson Street Centre is the ideal Community Centre catering for Mainstream Learning, Community based Adult Education, Youth learning opportunities and advisory services in providing drop - in facilities and Children's Activity based programs. The centre café is also very popular as it provides an ideal setting for all users to meet and integrate. It is also an ideal drop - in facility to relax and chat over a cup of tea. A centre used extensively by the young, the mature and senior members of the Penicuik community and particularly enjoyed by adults with special needs".

 

Concern was also expressed about the closure of the Queensway and Ladywood Leisure Centres. Since the beginning of this year rumours have been rife concerning these closures. Sheena Saltoun and Ian Macdonald expressed concerns that Midlothian Council was tearing the heart out of the Penicuik Community. The Jackson Street situation was further evidence of this. "Why close centres that are well used?" asked Mrs. Saltoun. The town’s two Leisure centres each have over one thousand users each week and the Jackson Street Centre varies from one thousand users between September and January, eight hundred users between January and April and six hundred users between April and July. Peak usage indicates that three thousand five hundred people use the three centres each week. Midlothian Council's plans to close all three centres and merge them into a Penicuik High School Community Campus appeared unrealistic. Three thousand five hundred users per week equate to five hundred users per day. Edward Green indicated that "12 into 3 won't go!" (12 classrooms are utilised in Jackson Street each day whilst only three will be on offer daily within the High School building). "The closure of Jackson Street is one step forward and two steps back. The money squandered by Midlothian Council could have built a community leisure centre complete with swimming pool and community learning classrooms in a more suitable part of Penicuik, not away on a limb of Penicuik High School which will cause congestion of traffic and parking problems on Carlops Road". There was concern from many that Penicuik High School is not central and not on a bus route. Many attending were not confident about entering a school environment. "Some older students can feel intimidated just by the sight of groups of young people even although the young people themselves are posing no threat." Entry, security and access to the school were questioned. "Adult education classes start after 9.00am - will each of our students have to be 'buzzed' into the school?  Will we have to wear ID badges so that staff and pupils know who we are?" Kathleen Taylor asked "Just what are Midlothian Councillors thinking of to consider closure of this centre. They obviously have no idea of what goes on in the Jackson Street Centre. Think Again!"

 

Local councillor, David Fletcher expressed concerns about the rumours circulating in Penicuik but assured the meeting that the new facilities to be provided were conditional on a bus service being provided which would follow a figure of eight loop around town, and also on a very large car park being attached to the swimming pool. He also confirmed that the central pathway through the park was to be improved. He and Councillor Sheila Thacker pledged their support to user groups in that they are concerned that good quality, accessible community facilities should be available in Penicuik, whether their purpose is for learning, recreation or sport. " We have made our position plain to the relevant officers of the Council and to the Cabinet members". They indicated that in common with all elected members, at this stage they could do no more. Only when the Council's Asset Management Review proposals are published will it be possible for meaningful discussion to take place. Mrs. Thacker stated that the decision had been taken and that there was very little the attending local councillors could do as they were not privy to the Cabinet discussions. This was not well received by the audience although Mr. McCall praised Mrs. Thacker for her continuous support to PCEA.

 

Sandy Sievwright strongly pointed out that the reason for so many rumours was that there had been no prior consultation and little clear information available. This conflicted with the Mission statement contained within the Midlothian Council's literature sent out to all householders which promised to involve the public in decision making, and to deliver services based on what customers want.

 

The main points at issue with the proposed move to Penicuik High School were; -

1.      Lack of open consultation with user groups prior to the Council's decision to close the Centre being taken on 7th February 2006.

2.      A complete lack of assessment of user groups requirements, not only for meeting rooms but light (Art Group) and space for storage of valuable and expensive equipment (Family History, Picture Framing, Glass cutting).

3.      Issues with proposed site at Penicuik High School  i.e. not on regular bus route, lack of parking facilities and  fear of  crossing  poorly lit park at night.

4.      The rooms identified on plans clearly not nearly enough to cater for all user groups from all existing facilities.  There was a feeling that Midlothian Council had adopted a ’ TARDIS ' approach to accommodation needs.

5.      Concern that young people who feel secure when using MYPAS at Jackson Street would not feel comfortable returning to a school environment.

6.      Some elderly users would feel intimidated by school groups.

7.      Issues of security and access.

8.      The rooms provided might be taken back if Penicuik High School’s pupil roll increased with new housing developments.

9.      Beeslack High School already uses Ladywood each weekday. Will they use Penicuik High School when Ladywood closes.

10.  The absence of café and drop - in centre facilities.

 

As Mr. Montgomery had left the building prior to the commencement of the meeting and as he was the only member of the Midlothian Cabinet to accept an invitation to attend, no real solutions could be ascertained therefore the Jackson Street users were deprived of knowledge of Midlothian Council's real plans for Penicuik and in particular the Penicuik Learning Centre's future use. Midlothian Council had created uncertainty and anger at the proposed changes and closures. Although Councillor David Fletcher had indicated that the meeting was responding to rumours it was clear that decisions had been made to close Queensway, Ladywood and Jackson Street.

 

Penicuik Friends of Childline intimated that " Penicuik is expanding, a new regiment is now in place, there are to be up to 1000 new houses to be built with roughly 1500 children (local authorities count 1.5 children per house). How are all these people to be catered for if every community outlet in the town is closed in favor of school buildings? Another point, many members of the public are averse to going back to school to follow activities".

 

Numerous letters were read from users unable to attend. In one letter sent by a former tutor of fitness and dance the Centre's value was acclaimed. 'As well as the obvious benefit of physical activity in both these classes, valuable contacts were made, many friendships were formed, integration of new people to the area was achieved - the list is endless. They are the obvious advantages of having an easy accessible, welcoming, well - run centre in the heart of the community. One has only to look at the full car park at Jackson Street every day of the week to appreciate its wide use by the people of Penicuik and beyond. So many different groups, covering all ages, are catered for - the centre and its outreach classes are an example of an excellent community facility. What exists at Jackson Street and the other centres in the town, threatened by closure, can never be met by one, new, limited facility at Penicuik High School to meet the needs of the ever increasing population of Penicuik '.

 

William Hurt commented "The Jackson Street Centre is well loved by many residents of Penicuik and the surrounding areas who attend a variety of classes and activities. Classes are both educational and social, often being a rare friendly meeting place for like - minded senior citizens. This is a mean spirited attack on senior citizens who much value community learning activities; especially those located centrally near to shops and the bus routes. Please leave the Jackson Street Community Learning Centre active and intact".

 

Another question raised was " Has the Council been approached by developers for the Jackson Street building "

Colin McCall informed the meeting that he did not know what was to happen to the building but indicated that according to Midlothian Council's budget plan £35 000 was earmarked for work on the Jackson Street roof in year 2007/2008. This may indicate the Council has another use for the building. He also stated that according to the General Services Capital Budget, income of £135,000 from the Big Lottery Fund was earmarked for a Penicuik Skatepark in 2006/2007. These two projects have been approved and are classed as minor projects. Those in attendance were also informed that shortly after the local newspaper item indicating the Jackson Street closure, planning permission was granted to install a lift and develop disability access within the Jackson Street building.

 

The user group gathering of over one hundred representatives was invited to raise their hands if they supported Midlothian Council's plan to merge four into one. (Penicuik High School, Queensway Leisure Centre, Ladywood Leisure Centre, Penicuik (Jackson Street) Learning Centre to become Penicuik Community High School Campus). Not one hand was raised. Ninety percent of those attending supported the idea of protest against the closures.

 

There was also concern that facilities at the Carnethy Community Learning Centre had been cut. Lack of classroom space to accommodate children of incoming Army personnel meant that Mauricewood Primary School needed the community wing. This meant the Pilates group had to disband whilst others were accommodated at the Penicuik Learning Centre. A further concern was the closure of the woodwork workshop and a lack of urgency in providing a Tutor. A suggestion by PCEA that Midlothian Training Services may be able to use the facility had not come to fruition. The excellently equipped workshop has remained closed for three years.

 

MSP Jeremy Purvis suggested that the best approach would be for all affected Leisure and Community Centres to combine forces and to channel all protests to Midlothian Council through Penicuik Community District Council who were represented at the meeting.

 

MSP Christine Graham acknowledged the strength of feeling amongst the user group representatives and suggested that the groups could petition the Scottish Parliament; introduce a Testimonial Book of signed letters from concerned users, which could also be sent to Parliament with copies to Midlothian Council; start a letters campaign to local and national newspapers and media; consider marches and demonstrations. She gave an example of protest in Eyemouth that led to the retention of the swimming pool scheduled for closure.

 

Colin McCall thanked all for attending as well as those who were otherwise engaged but contributed by letter.

He was clearly disappointed when stating after the meeting that "It is a great pity that our user groups contributed so much to this meeting with only two councillors in attendance. I was delighted that Councillor Montgomery had accepted the invitation to attend but shocked at his decision not to participate. In walking out he deserted his constituents. The meeting was left without Midlothian Cabinet representation. This was a great disappointment to our user group representatives. All Midlothian Councillors were invited to attend along with relevant Departmental Directors. Two Councillors attended the meeting whilst all Departmental Directors chose not to attend. This shows how much concern Midlothian Councillors and Officials have for the town of Penicuik and its residents. There may not be a problem housing some mainstream learning activities but I worry that many activity groups will cease to exist as there will be insufficient accommodation for them to continue".

 

Jackson Street Learning Centre is home to many so on behalf of MYPAS, The Midlothian Integration Team, Outreach Learning, The Picture Framing Groups, The Art Groups, Mother and Toddler Groups, Yoga Groups, Belly Dancing Group, Modern Languages Groups, Real Jobs, Volunteering 1St, M.E.L.D., Children 1St, Scottish Child Minding Association, Job Centre Plus, CyBil Project, Pulp Fiction, Car Boot Sales, PC for the Terrified Group, SQA Computer Group, Indoor Bowling Groups, Adult Literacy Groups, Digital Camera Group, Penicuik Family History Group, Patchwork Group, Lip Reading Group, SPA play work group, Childminding group, Childline, Tai Chi Group, Woodwork Group, Jean's Drop in Café, After School Clubs, Street Banners Club, French and Spanish classes, Art Link, Creative Writing group, Numeracy group, Every Day English group, Community Work Course, Internet and email group, Craft group, H.E.L.P.P., John Chant Centre, all the community groups booking rooms frequently and our Crèche team, Penicuik Community Education Association organised this meeting as a platform for our users to express their views and concerns appertaining to  Midlothian Council's decision to close Jackson Street and 'accommodate the needs of the Penicuik Community across a range of community facilities.'

 

Yours faithfully

Colin W. McCall

   Chairperson

       PCEA

 

“Working in partnership with Midlothian Council to provide and improve social education and learning opportunities for all members of the community”

 

Penicuik Community Education Association is a Company Limited by Guarantee, Registered in Scotland, number 214719.

Recognised by the Inland Revenue as a Scottish Charity, Number SC030904

Registered Office: Carnethy Centre, Muirhead Place, Penicuik. EH26 0LE.

 

 

End of PCEA’s note of the 2006 public meeting on the closure of Jackson Street School

 

Jackson St School exhibition in Penicuik Town Hall on 31 October 2009.

 

Business Plan for Jackson Street School prepared by PCDT

and submitted to Midlothian Council on 2 November 2009

 

2010 CAMPAIGN FOR JACKSON STREET SCHOOL

 

 

PENICUIK COMMUNITY ASSETS      

 

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