Letters to the editor

Letters to the editor can be sent to the Herald office at 27 Stewart Street, Milngavie G62 6BW, or e-mailed to mbherald@jnscotland.co.uk

LAST week’s letter (M and B Herald, January 6) from the McGarvey family concerning the Allander sports centre highlights how much misinformation in the public realm there is on this issue.

A potted history of how the proposal to build a new sports centre on the existing car park has been arrived at might be helpful.

The original planning application submitted by Cala/Stewart Milne in 2007 to redevelop the whole Kilmardinny/Westpark site contained the proposal to demolish the existing Allander, exchange ground between the developers and the council and build a new centre on the old bus garage site.

This proposal assumed demolition of the existing buildings before construction of the new facility, which meant there would be no council sports facilities in Bearsden and Milngavie for 18 months.

For many reasons, not least of which was the closure proposal, the planning board refused the application which was subsequently appealed by the developers.

After a protracted period, the Reporter who heard the appeal found in favour of the developers and, as part of her adjudication, suggested that the council and the developers enter into an agreement to cover issues around land transfer, planning gain contributions from the developer in connection with building a new Allander and programming arrangements amongst other infrastructure, transport and affordable housing provision.

A draft agreement was received by the council from the developers and contained several unacceptable clauses. Firstly it involved the early demolition of the existing Allander sports centre with no certainty of a new facility being built, and secondly the £10million developer contribution included in the Reporter’s decision would only be available provided the council commenced work on a new sports centre on the bus garage site within a three-year timeframe otherwise it would be lost to the council.

At this time, realising the dual problems of losing sports facilities and the developer contribution, I presented a motion to council which articulated the bottom line principle that the existing Allander sports centre would remain open until such time as a new sports facility was built with at least the same facilities and to a modern standard. My motion was successful and became council policy.

Thereafter, much negotiation was undertaken and against my better judgement (having voted against it) the council agreed to a form of words which it deemed acceptable. The developers failed to sign up to the agreement.

Over the past 15 months there have been three public consultations over the future of the centre, done initially by Gil Paterson MSP, then by EDC and lastly by Cala/Stewart Milne. In all of these consultations two themes dominate the results: there should be continuous council sports facilities in Bearsden and Milngavie and, if it is possible financially, a new centre should be built.

As a result of the Cala consultation a new proposal emerged that a new centre could be built on the existing car park site. In addition, the developers have stated publicly that the £10m contribution will be available for either a new build option, or for a refurbished Allander, should that cost in excess of the contribution figure.

At December’s policy and resources committee a paper was presented which considered the economics of the two new build proposals and the refurbishment option. The committee agreed unanimously with my amendment to build a new sports centre on the car park site, providing a legally binding contract concerning the £10m contribution could be agreed with Cala/Stewart Milne.

Also in my amendment was the commitment to set up a ‘champions working group’ to decide on how the new building will be procured and what exact facilities will be included. This group will have representatives from user groups, the community, leisure trust, relevant council officers and councillors and will be in place this year.

It is worth remembering that council policy states that any new Allander must have at least the same facilities as the existing one, so the McGarvey family’s concern about the loss of the sportsdrome indoor facilities are unfounded.

To do otherwise will require a majority motion to change council policy, and since there is complete unanimity that a new Allander should be built to a modern standard and contain at least the same facilities as the existing one, that’s not going to happen.

Councillor Ian Mackay

Bearsden North

FOLLOWING LibDem support for a brand new state-of-the-art Allander centre, I wish to clarify the future of the sportsdome in response to local concerns.

The successful option which my colleagues and I favoured includes the maximum level of facilities and a total floor area equivalent to the present centre plus the sportsdrome.

This was particularly important to us as we would not have supported a new build of lesser scale and scope when compared to the present leisure facilities available at the Allander site.

In addition, the Liberal Democrat group took action last year to underline the council’s commitment to the present Allander centre - including sportsdrome - during the construction phase, protecting these services for public use in the intervening period and allowing a smooth transition for local users.

I also believe it important to respond to the proclaimed Labour candidate for Bearsden North’s late contribution to the debate through your letters page.

His bold claim to be the sole local voice consistently in favour of a new build project paints a distorted picture, whether deliberate or not.

Our ambition for local leisure facilities has always been paramount but was rightly shaped in consultation with community groups and local Allander users rather than dictated from high.

Further, such projects may incur financial risk and it was crucial that this was minimised through cost options, allowing an informed decision with value for money at the heart.

Anything else would have been irresponsible in light of the financial situation that the council faces, a circumstance any candidate for public office should bear in mind.

Councillor Ashay Ghai

Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group

East Dunbartonshire Council

I AM very concerned about a couple of letters which have recently been sent to the letters page.

One letter stated that the council’s policy and resources committee agreed to “destroy” the sportsdrome indoor football and tennis facilities at the Allander centre. This is not the correct terminology to use.

The indoor facility will be “replaced” fully within a new facility which is being scoped out.

The capital monies to build this all new Allander will be secured from a mixture of the developers Funds, external bodies (who are unlikely to contribute to any facility which does not meet modern standards) and normal capital money from council resources.

The £3million quoted in the Herald only refers to a basic upgrade of plant, removal of asbestos and some other repairs and not the full refurbishement cost of almost £10m.

The chosen option for complete rebuild of the sports centre on the existing car park is the most expensive one, but will provide a 21st century state of the art facility and not another re-hash of the much loved Allander.

It will ensure no long closure of the facility that a refurbishment option would and reduce the revenue cost of to the tax payer of operating an ageing building.

It will reduce the energy usage of the building and the carbon footprint in under a decade.

Until the money is secured from the developer and beyond, the council will be in control of the project.

Councillors would be short sighted to turn down this chance to provide a new centre while retaining the old centre until it is no longer needed.

Car parking for a potential rail halt at the Allander will also be retained. The full report is freely available on the council website or through your library.

Councillor Jim Gibbons

Milngavie

I HAVE just read the article regarding Pets Plus (M and B Herald, January 6). I have boarded my hamsters on several occasions with Pets Plus and I could not have been happier with the service.

Paul McDougall

Via e-mail

HAVING read the article regarding Pets Plus, I have to immediately commend the boarding service offered by the owner James Holton.

I have used this facility on numerous occasions for both my guinea pig and rabbit and have been very happy with the care they provide.

Sheena Ferguson

Via e-mail

WITH reference to your article about Pets Plus, I think James Holton is the kindest and most polite person I have met, and is always eager to help me and my family with our pets at any time.

The family in the article do not seem to understand that hamsters are very good at escaping, and once they have escaped are very hard to find again, as they can go under floorboards or in the walls.

The only thing that can be done is be patient and set traps. James has done this and is keeping an eagle eye on his shop for any signs of the missing hamster.

Having used James’ boarding services countless times for various animals, we have never had any problems, and he has always been willing to keep the animals for longer if we have any problems and are unable to travel.

I know James and trust him greatly with my animals and any queries I may have.

Lorna Mackinnon

First Avenue

Bearsden

THE Milngavie Town Hall was full to capacity on Saturday, December 17 as the Milngavie Choir, along with the Bearsden & Milngavie Youth Orchestra, treated an appreciative audience to a varied selection of Christmas carols, seasonal songs and classical pieces.

The Milngavie Choir, under the baton of their new Music Director Razvan Luculescu, with accompanist Flora Tzanetaki were joined by the Symphony Orchestra of Bearsden & Milngavie Youth Orchestra, conducted by Chris Gray.

The concert opened with the choir performing Verdi’s intricate Ave Maria, immediately followed by Morten Lauridsen’s beautifully atmospheric O Magnum Mysterium.

This proved to be a very challenging start to the programme for the choir, admittedly not helped by the Milngavie Town Hall’s very dry acoustic.

As the choir progressed into a selection of traditional carols, there seemed to be some confusion about the order of the programme. However, the audience still had the opportunity to join in singing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and O Come All Ye Faithful.

The choir settled down in the second half, which started with enthusiastic renditions of Ronald Kauffmann’s African Noel, the very tuneful Schneewalzer and the popular Winter Wonderland.

Performances were interspersed with musical contributions from the Bearsden & Milngavie Youth Orchestra, who played a variety of popular Classical pieces including arrangements of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and the Finale of Symphony No. 5, Britten’s Five Courtly Dances, and Prokofiev’s very festive sounding Trioka.

The choir drew the programme to a close in seasonal style with Thirty-two Feet and Eight Little Tails, providing the audience with a final opportunity to sing along with Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, and finishing with Leroy Anderson’s joyful Sleigh Ride.

Adrian Finnerty

Via e-mail