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Community / Leisure centre services may need to be cut if finances don’t improve, trust chief warns

Shetland Recreational Trust is also reviewing its subscription packages

The swimming pool at Clickimin Leisure Complex. If Shetland Recreational Trust was snared by the overhauled business rates scheme, it could lose out to the tune of £750,000 a year.
The Clickimin Leisure centre pool.

THE CHIEF executive of the organisation which runs Shetland’s leisure centres says services may have to be cut back in the future if income is not maximised and costs are not reduced.

Shetland Recreational Trust’s Steven Laidlaw added that the cost of maintaining the organisation’s ageing estate of buildings is “substantial”.

He said in a letter to Lerwick Community Council that most of the trust’s buildings are now over 25 years old, with some approaching 40.

Laidlaw’s letter came after concern was raised by Lerwick Community Council over a proposal to cut the indoor bowling space at the Clickimin Leisure Complex and replace it with soft play equipment for children.

This has led to frustration from the indoor bowls club, while the company behind plans for a soft play centre in Voe says it would place doubts over its business.

In the letter Laidlaw highlighted that the soft play idea is still just a proposal at this stage, with consultation ongoing.

But he said the bowls hall has been pinpointed as one area where more money could be made.

Laidlaw said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic the income generated by bowls at the Clickimin was around £10,400 a year.

This equated to £10.79 per square metre a year, which is the “lowest by some margin when compared to any other space we operate at Clickimin”.

When taking into account other activities in the bowls hall which generate income, that figure rises to £31 per square metre a year.

In comparison the gym income is around £839 per square metre a year, and the 60/40 pitch is £74.92 per square metre a year.

“As you can see the income generated from the bowls within the bowls hall means we have to at least consider other uses for the space,” Laidlaw wrote.

“I am sure you can appreciate that we may not be able to keep the status quo going forward and all options for maximising income will be considered.”

He highlighted that the trust is part-funded by Shetland Charitable Trust, with generated income needed to balance the books.

“I am sure I do not have to tell you that achieving that within the constrained economic envelope in which we work is ever more challenging, particularly this year.”

Laidlaw also appeared to play down concern from Lerwick Community Council chairman Jim Anderson that cutting the space in the bowls hall could impact chances of the sport being played at any future Shetland Island Games.

“As you may be aware Orkney are due to host the Games in 2025 and are proposing that bowls would be included as one of the participating sports,” he wrote. “Orkney do not have an indoor bowls facilities [sic] and as our nearest neighbour have very similar weather constraints as we do.

“The inclusion of the bowls in the Orkney Island Games goes to show that any loss of space should not impact on the ability to host bowls at any future island games in Shetland.”

The letter was not discussed at Monday’s community council meeting.

Shetland Recreational Trust, meanwhile, is on the lookout for people to help it review its subscriptions in small informal focus groups held on Zoom.

Participants, who do not have to users of leisure centres, will be give a £20 gift token for a local retailer as a thank you for their input and time.

The trust is reviewing the gold, silver, bronze and aqua subscriptions offered at all of its facilities with a view to creating new options ready to be launched in September which are “accessible, affordable and inclusive to all”.

Operations manager Robert Geddes said: “Participation in this project will enable folk to make a direct contribution to our understanding of the current subscription packages on offer and to shape what the future of physical activity looks like across the isles in years to come.

“You don’t have to be an expert in any aspect of the leisure industry to participate and we will not be discussing any personal details.

“We just want to hear your views and to make sure that what we offer our customers is what suits them best.”

Focus groups for the isles – Unst, Yell and Whalsay – will take place for current customers on 26 April and non-users the same time on the following day.

For the mainland area – North/West/South Mainland and Scalloway Pool – users can take part in a group on 29 April, with non-users on 3 May.

Clickimin users’ group will be held on 4 May, with non-users on 6 May.

All focus groups will be held between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

Anyone interested in taking part should email robert.geddes@srt.org.uk and include the name of the session you wish to attend along with a few details of yourself, a contact number and why you are interested in helping by 5pm on Wednesday 14 April.