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Charity Bright Sparks to move into Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre

Bonnyrigg Leisure centre Image copyright Google
Image caption Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre has been disused since last summer

A local charity for children with disabilities is to move into a disused leisure centre in Midlothian.

Midlothian Council decided that Bright Sparks should be allowed to let Bonnyrigg Leisure Centre.

The centre has been disused since the £38m Lasswade Centre, which houses a library, swimming pool and school, opened its doors last summer.

In March, councillors agreed to reject a recommendation to demolish the former leisure centre.

Community group the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd failed in its bid to take over the running of the building.

A majority of the councillors - 14 - voted in favour of Bright Sparks using the building while two councillors voted for Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd as a preferred bidder.

Members also rejected two other formal bids from community groups Bonnyrigg and Sherwood Community Development Trust and LO-GY.

Councillors made the decision at a full council meeting.

Bigger premises

Bright Sparks, which provides playgroup, holiday activities and after-school support for children with complex additional needs, and their families, will relocate to the back area of the former leisure centre from its current base at the council-owned Cockpen Centre.

Owen Thompson, Midlothian Council leader, said: "We had always said we would look at all options for the building and this opportunity for Bright Sparks could enable the charity to expand the excellent work it does.

"Demand for its services has steadily increased in recent years, which is why it's looking to move to bigger premises.

"The extra space would potentially be around three times the size of Cockpen and it would allow the charity to develop a real centre for excellence for play provision for children with a variety of disabilities."

Midlothian Council currently funds Bright Sparks to provide playgroup support for children aged 0-5.

The group also raises money for a range of activities after school and during holiday periods for children aged 0-11.

However, Mr Thompson said that if further investigations found the Bright Sparks' option was not feasible, the Bonnyrigg Centre Trust Ltd should be allowed to let the building for six months. However, this would need to go through another formal process.

The council would not incur any costs before, during or after that period and the situation would be reviewed again after six months.

The three formal bids were considered by an independent assessment panel of council officials looking at financial viability, how the work would fit with plans to improve people's lives and the level of community consultation/ support for each bid.

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