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
is PCEA’s note of the 2006 public meeting on the
EH26 9BQ EH26 0LE
Tel/fax: 01968 679234 Tel/fax: 01968 673594
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
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.
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 '
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
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.
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
main points at issue with the proposed move to
Lack of open consultation
with user groups prior to the Council's decision to close the Centre being
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).
Issues with proposed site
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.
Concern that young people
who feel secure when using MYPAS at
6. Some elderly users would feel intimidated by school groups.
7. Issues of security and access.
The rooms provided might
be taken back if
10. The absence of café and drop - in centre facilities.
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
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".
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
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".
question raised was " Has the Council been
approached by developers for the
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.'
Colin W. McCall
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
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