Kilbowie Outdoor Centre to shut

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Kilbowie Outdoor Centre in Oban will shut next year.

Its future was decided by just one vote after North Lanarkshire councillors narrowly voted for its closure at a policy and strategy meeting last week.

Despite a petition of more than 7,000 names to keep the council-owned and run centre on Gallanach Road open, it could not be saved.

The council’s decision has angered many people, with some branding it ‘a disgrace’.

‘There are no words to describe how angry and saddened I am by this decision.  Are they not listening to the people who voted for them? They ought to be ashamed of themselves,’ said one post of Save Kilbowie’s Facebook page.

Another campaigner posted: ‘Awful decision and the attainment gap just gets worse now. It’s the most vulnerable and marginalised who will suffer due to this decision.’

Included in reasons why the centre should close were the West Coast weather and teachers having to reorganise their home life  for nights away on residential courses.

Over the years the centre has faced a number of threats due to budget cuts.

Currently, all primary seven children in North Lanarkshire, about 100 miles from Oban, get the chance to attend the centre every academic year. In 2018/19, visiting numbers were 3,655, but the centre also hosts a number of Oban community-based activities at weekends and in the holidays.

Almost £2 million has been spent on maintaining the building since 2010, with another £395,000 earmarked by the council for this year if the centre stays open. If the 26-year-old centre goes up for sale, it could go for about £680,000.

North Lanarkshire Council is facing a forecast £97 million budget deficit over the next three years. Shutting it could also save yearly running costs of up to £818,312.

A spokesperson for North Lanarkshire Council said: ‘The council is fully committed to continuing to provide our pupils with quality outdoor residential education opportunities.

‘While we recognise Kilbowie provides great experiences for our pupils, the facility is expensive to maintain and reductions to our revenue budget mean that levels of subsidy provided by the council, for pupils to attend, is no longer sustainable.

‘In addition, because of the necessity to allocate groups to specific weeks due to travel time and cost, some groups of children can have their activities curtailed by weather conditions.

‘As the report notes, we have ambitious plans to develop our own local assets for the benefit of children in our area.’