ALLOA'S iconic metal-clad leisure centre is to close its doors for good after some 35 years of operations, councillors decided today.

Clackmannanshire Council has on Thursday, February 11, agreed to close Alloa Leisure Bowl, ending a management agreement with Wasp Leisure Limited to run the facility.

The agreement was originally due to end in 2019 after a 10-year contract period, but the ageing building received a stay of execution – as reported at the time.

Elected members heard that due to the cost of modifications to ensure the Leisure Bowl is Covid safe, the cost of substantial upgrades that would be required and the ongoing maintenance costs, the agreement no longer represents best value for taxpayers' money.

A council officer said at the meeting: "The survey work [undertaken in recent months] thus far has flagged up £650,000 worth of required works, not including an awaited report on ventilation adaptations to ensure a Covid-safe environment.

"And as the report outlines, potential costs of over £1million should the ageing plant [heating system] fail."

Councillors were split on the matter, Labour representatives seeking to defer the decision due to uncertainty over future provision in the Wee County.

The chamber, which voted to discuss the item in public, heard that a report would be brought back in the coming months to detail options for future leisure provision in Clacks.

This is to include proposals for the long-term as well as interim arrangements, including access to swimming when Covid-19 restrictions permit.

What followed was a lengthy debate with all councillors present asking questions and making comments.

The ageing Alloa Leisure Bowl is to close for good

The 'ageing' Alloa Leisure Bowl is to close for good

Councillor Craig Holden explained that the confirmed costs over the next five years would be at least £3.4million if the council continued to operate the facility.

He said "This is an ageing facility which does not meet Covid-19 requirements and in order to make it compliant, and to continue operations from there, we would need to spend many millions of pounds, which could be invested in a future-proof alternative."

Cllr Holden added: "The future of leisure provision will change in a post-pandemic world, we can ready ourselves for that now or we can remain tied to an outdated and expensive alternative.

"We must make the best use of what we have and ensure other key services, such as swimming, are still available in Clackmannanshire."

Cllr Holden also thanked Wasp Leisure and paid tribute to the hard working staff at the facility.

Labour Group leader Cllr Dave Clark sought to defer the decision until options for future provision were brought forward.

He expressed concern that stakeholders and groups using the Leisure Bowl, such as indoor bowlers and swimmers, would only be consulted on future provision after the facility closed.

"This is a dog's breakfast," Cllr Clark said: "We need to go back to when that contract ceased in 2019. Part of the decision there, which has not been implemented and which has got us into this dog's breakfast, is that we would have a full leisure report.

"We don't have a full leisure report and we are bounced into a decision."

He concluded: "The smart thing is to defer our decision until that full leisure report is part of it."

While his Labour colleagues echoed the sentiment and raised concerns, saying the report threw up more questions than it answered, Cllr Clark's motion to take the same paper into the next meeting failed to gain wider support.

Labour representatives voted against the recommendations, but the paper was ultimately passed.

Conservative Cllr Martha Benny said she agreed "with reservations", and stated: "This should have happened in 2019 when we gave a stay of execution and we've thrown good money after bad."

Cllr Holden added: "Cllr Clark spoke about the timing of the decision, he came up with the bizarre suggestion that the smart thing to do is to continue to pay £50,000 a month for a facility that we cannot use now or in the future without a level of investment which is quite frankly eye-watering.

"That's an irresponsible approach and doesn't take into account the reality of the situation."

Future options are to be outlined in a report to council in May.