No Let Up on Hall Fees

By Jane Cruickshank / May 13, 2023

CONCERNS about the cost of hiring sports space from the local authority were aired at the latest meeting of Stonehaven and District Community Council, SDCC – but little hope was offered of any reduction.

The Panthers Basketball Club has recently quit Mackie Academy after a £6/hour increase to the hall charge proved a last straw. Coach Jackie Bruce highlighted the issue and wrote to Councillors.

In her letter she stated: ”There are well established benefits of community sports for the health and mental wellbeing of our communities, yet the unintended consequences of these increases result in less people (mostly children) being able to participate in physical activity, increasing the already huge demand on our NHS and Mental Health Services.

”The Council’s policy of income generation via community groups being charged exorbitant hall fees is almost as disgusting as the state of the facilities! I am utterly ashamed of how Aberdeenshire Council is targeting sports and leisure users and I would greatly appreciate it if you could let me know what you plan to do about it?”

Adding up the cost to clubs

Speaking at the meeting last night, SDCC chair David Lawman backed Mrs Bruce’s complaint. He said the increase added up over a year would prove a significant amount for the club.

”If you have successful clubs chosing to leave the town or even to leave the Shire, then you are surely doing something wrong,” he said.

The lack of sports space availability was discussed. Jim Stephen said many groups had to be rehomed when the ‘Green Hut’ was repurposed – leading to the loss of a Judo club.

And with pupils’ activities always having the priority in school halls, their let is unreliable. Mr Lawman noted the Rhthym Nation dance group had moved to an industrial unit and queried the role access to educational facilities had played.

Jim Stephen added up the costs being borne by the Panthers, the dance studio and by the Lions Den Martial Arts group each year.

”They are paying about £100,000,” he said.

Cllr Sarah Dickinson said the availabilty of space was definitely an issue, especially during the winter months – and had been back in 2009 when she undertook an impact assessment as a community councillor.

”But every community group or club has a discounted rate,” she said.

”The council aims for cost recovery. They are not making clubs and groups pay the full rate.”

Later in the meeting, Cllr Alan Turner said some of the groups were in fact commercial interests who should maybe look at buying their own premises.

Meanwhile, Mrs Dickinson said she had fed back all concerns raised by Mrs Bruce, who is also vice chairperson of Stonehaven Community Sports Hub. She added the information she had put together would be useful to the council, who would look at it when they review charges.