Community groups seek answers

Community groups in the Mearns are seeking answers from the council on why they can’t continue to use the Mearns Community Centre.

The Laurencekirk Lunch Club and Thursday coffee morning groups - which use the Mearns Community Centre - have been told by Aberdeenshire Council that it is no longer able to keep the facility open.

Mearns Community Centre

Mearns Community Centre

Provision has been made for them at the new Mearns Academy Community Campus, but the groups have said this move is unsuitable for what they require.

Following a supporting report from the Care Commission, the Laurencekirk Out of School Club have been told they may continue to use the facility until space has been made for them at the local primary school, which is expected to take at least a year.

The Lunch Club and Thursday coffee morning groups have been told they may remain in the centre until the end of the year.

The groups maintain that they have no problem with the After School Club using the facilities, but want to know why they can’t continue if the centre is being kept open until next year.

Lunch Club organisers said: “The Masonic hall is an alternative for us but it costs £10 an hour to hire. We would need three hours at least which is putting extra expense on our stretched finances.

“We want to stay here until the primary school is ready, it does seem daft that it is going to be open for the after school club and we can’t stay here.”

Coffee morning organisers told us : “We were going to have a trial run next week or the following week but now they have told us we have to take all the coffee pots and saucers with us.

Let us stay here until the Laurencekirk Primary School extension is built.”

Mearns Councillor George Carr has been looking to help solve the problems the groups are having so the community groups don’t lose any members and have a viable solution.

He said: “We have been looking for a solution for the groups who use the centre as people are aware the after school club will be staying until the extension is built at the primary school.

“The pensioner groups want to stay at the centre as it is where the majority of the people who use it live. We have said from the beginning that with moving to the campus we needed to make sure that all the groups were happy. The pensioner groups want to stay at the centre until the extension is built.”

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “Aberdeenshire Council has now moved its staff from the old community centre to the new Community Campus, and as a result can no longer accommodate community groups in the old facility.

“Special arrangements have been made with the out of school club to enable them to continue to use the facility until they can be accommodated in Laurencekirk Primary School, ensuring that they have access to accommodation that meets appropriate requirements and ensures a straightforward transition of young people between the out of school club and the primary school itself.

“All other groups are being offered accommodation in the new Community Campus. The new campus has been created as a result of a £24 million investment and includes a modern, easily accessible community centre that can provide accommodation to community groups. Many groups have begun to use the new facilities and have given excellent feedback. Council officers have been working with groups over the last year to assist them in the transition period and will continue to assist and advise all community groups looking for community space in Laurencekirk. At the last dedicated meeting with these groups in October, council officers highlighted possible venues for existing groups and offered to provide specific help to the groups to enable them to access these venues. ”