The closure of Auchinleck Leisure Centre and relocation of football pitches has been the result of a ‘catalogue of failures’, according to campaigners.

East Ayrshire Council’s cabinet approved plans to demolish the leisure centre and relocate the adjacent synthetic pitches to Merlin Park, despite a last ditch impassioned plea from local campaigners.

East Ayrshire Council was forced to ‘step back’ from an earlier decision to close the facility, after it admitted that an equality impact assessment had not been carried out properly.

READ MORE: Auchinleck Leisure Centre pool and games hall shut for good

However, the council was adamant that the £6.5 million to retain the leisure centre as a standalone facility was untenable in the current financial climate, with a more recent deterioration in the property compounding the matter.

Campaigners fighting against the closure were given the chance to put forward their case for keeping the leisure centre open.

Their arguments focused on a perceived lack of engagement with the community, affordability of access to local people who would need to travel further afield to use the same facilities.

Cumnock Chronicle: Campaigners had been fighting against the decision.Campaigners had been fighting against the decision. (Image: Charlie Gilmour)

They also suggested that there had been ‘wilful abandonment’ of the centre since the closure of Auchinleck Academy, and said that the options given were about the council getting "what it wants" rather than what the community needs.

The process to close the facility has been accelerated since new year as a result of the deterioration of the fabric of the building and the associated safety risks.

The council admitted that there was a high level of opposition to both proposals, each of which would see the closure of the centre, but would provide the option of the pitches being retained at the current site or be relocated to Merlin Park.

The report stated: “The analysis of the feedback to the consultation indicated that there was a clear and strong opposition to the proposal to close the leisure centre and pitches.”

READ MORE: Council to move Auchinleck pitches despite concerns over Merlin Park

The survey showed that 84 per cent of respondents were against the closure of the centre while retaining the existing pitches, compared to 76 per cent who opposed to the plan to relocate to Merlin Park.

Carol Robertson and Jean Allardyce spoke on behalf of the campaign group at the cabinet's meeting.

Ms Robertson said: “We disagree with much of what has been put forward to members, such as the seamless transition. It has been anything but.”

She also questioned the figures put before cabinet and called for an ‘independent feasibility study’.

Cumnock Chronicle: Concerns were raised over the Merlin.Concerns were raised over the Merlin. (Image: ALCC)

She argued that the centre was ‘well used and well loved’ and criticised the council for ignoring previous consultations.

Ms Robertson added: “The current costings have been misrepresented. There is no real breakdown. There are alternatives which would cost less to run."

She argued that a comparison between Auchinleck and Loudoun Leisure Centre was misrepresentative.

She said: “Comparing Auchinleck Leisure Centre to Loudoun Leisure Centre is like comparing apples to oranges.

“Auchinleck has restricted opening times. Party lets have been refused and there has been a lack of advertising for pool or halls.”

READ MORE: Academy demolition could be pushed back until next year

Ms Robertson also said that there was a safety issue for young people who don’t get the opportunity to learn to swim.

She warned that there was a danger of having ‘a generation that cannot swim unless they are from a more privileged background’.

Fellow campaigner Jean Allardyce was blunt in her view of the plan which she said "demonstrates to us a catalogue of failures, another flawed consultation, mismanaged finances and neglected maintenance to the degree of bordering on wilful abandonment.”

Despite the arguments, the cabinet unanimously backed the plan, with the health and safety issues to the fore.

Cumnock Chronicle: Auchinleck Leisure Centre pool and games hall shut for good.Auchinleck Leisure Centre pool and games hall shut for good. (Image: NQ Archive)

Council leader Douglas Reid said: “This is a very hard decision for us to make, but members from all parties have agreed the way forward.

“We recognise that there is an overwhelming public objection to this closure – and we thank everyone involved for taking the time to share their view with us – but at the same time we cannot ignore the financial problems surrounding this facility, which are quite literally staring us in the face.

“Community wellbeing, health and safety, poverty and inclusion all sit at the heart of this decision.

“Our communities deserve to be able to access facilities that are fit for purpose and in their current state, these facilities are not and in the current financial climate there is no money available to bring them all up to the standard our communities expect.

“However, there are other suitable alternatives within the same locality and we will continue to work with these organisations to ensure people do not miss out on the leisure activities they enjoy.

“We hope that over time our residents will appreciate why these difficult decisions had to be made.”