A much-loved Aberdeenshire leisure centre has appealed for urgent help from the public to keep the vital community facility open.
The Westdyke centre, at Westhill, is facing a cash crisis and the team there say there is now a very real risk of closure without assistance.
Management has launched a GoFundMe appeal in a bid to bring in £40,000 to ensure the facility’s survival and enable them to make plans for its long-term future.
They have also urged local people to “use it or lose it” – asking the community to come forward to make bookings for available gym hall time to generate additional income.
A perfect storm that has put Westdyke centre jobs at risk
The centre is facing a cash crisis, with a number of factors coming together to create a perfect storm – as they have for businesses, charities and resources across the north-east in recent years.
One significant issue, they say, has been the lack of financial support from Aberdeenshire Council, whose annual core funding grant was reduced and then withdrawn in recent years.
The council has also stopped doing the centre’s internal repairs – though the local authority does continue to help keep the building wind and watertight.
Energy costs have also had a major impact.
Staff and Westdyke supporters say they would be “devastated” if the centre were to close.
It has served the community since the early 1980s and offers a wide variety of classes and activities, from baby Kindergym to senior citizen exercise groups.
A pre-school group meets five days a week and its facilities are also used by a number of groups for outdoor football, sewing, pilates, yoga and martial arts, including Qigong.
Loss of leisure centre would be huge blow for Westhill community
Centre manager Shona Wright said: “Staff and all our users would be gutted to see the centre close.
“We are an important and well-used hub for the community.
“For many of our users, we provide vital social contact, whether that is for young families, teens or our older class users, as well as access to a whole range of groups and activities.
“A combination of factors has hit us hard, with the withdrawal of core funding and additional support from Aberdeenshire Council now causing us real problems.”
Shona said significant efforts had been made to improve the facilities and their energy efficiency in particular.
“We applied for local funding for a new water pump and tank, which were installed last year, and infrared heating for the gym hall, which was installed in April.
“These have helped us to be more energy efficient – and would be wasted if we had to close.
“We also applied for funding for LED lighting in the gym hall, but this has been rejected due to our current financial situation.
“How can we reduce our energy costs if they won’t help update their own building?”
The centre currently employs 11 staff, most of them part-time, with management horrified at the thought they could lose their roles.
‘We would really miss the classes’ at Westdyke centre
Anne Fell runs the SewSwift class at the centre.
She said: “We are a small group of sewing enthusiasts who look forward to meeting every week to undertake our dressmaking projects in a relaxed and friendly environment.
“It is a great space to unwind and be creative, with easy parking outside for unloading our sewing machines, and we would really miss the classes.”
Westhill councillor: ‘I would encourage anyone in the community to help if they can’
Westhill councillor Ron McKail said: “Westdyke is a valued and important facility and it would tragic if it were cease proving a valuable service for the Westhill community.
“Currently the users whether they be the playgroup or nursery kids, the variety of sports groups and other users for them to lose out would be detrimental to the overall wellbeing of residents.
“I’m very much in support of maintaining this resource. And of preventing the staff being made redundant.”
Fellow Westhill and District councillor Iris Walker added: “The Westdyke Leisure Centre is a well-used and much-loved local facility enabling a wide range of activities.
“The management committee have been running the centre independently from the council for many years.
“The council used to be responsible for building repairs and pitch maintenance as well as some general funding, but over the years, this support has diminished due to budget constraints.
“The council’s responsibility now is to keep the building wind and watertight.
“There are opportunities for maximising use of the facility and I know the trustees are keen for any group to come forward if they want to book the games hall and playgroup room.
“They are putting in a lot of effort to help secure the future of the Westdyke Leisure Centre.
“I would encourage anyone in or connected to the local community to contact the group if they can help either with fundraising, sponsorship or booking activities.”
How you can help Westdyke Leisure Centre
To ensure they and others do not lose out, Shona and members of the Westdyke board have launched a campaign to win community backing for their fundraising efforts.
They hope individual members of the community and businesses will support the effort – and that backing the GoFundMe appeal would be a great first step.
“We are part of a big and supportive community, ” Shona added.
“Any donation, however small, could really make a difference.
“If everyone in the community donated a small amount we would be well on track for our target.
“We want to do everything we can to make sure the centre stays open and continues providing its vital services.”
Already, more than £1,400 has been pledged to the fundraising effort.
Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the cause can go to gofund.me/1999d02f.