Anger over decision to axe Larne Leisure Centre summer scheme

No summer scheme at the Larne Leisure Centre to look forward to this year. INLT 25-425-PR
No summer scheme at the Larne Leisure Centre to look forward to this year. INLT 25-425-PR

A mother has launched a campaign to try to get Larne Council to have a change of heart on a decision not to run the leisure centre summer scheme.

Helen Porter, whose two children were among those who enjoyed the scheme in previous years, only found out that the summertime activity wasn’t going to happen this year when she contacted the leisure centre at the end of May.

“I was told it wasn’t going to run this year, but that there were going to be other events at council facilities although on a smaller scale.

“I believe this summer scheme has been going since the 1970s and I think it was a good way for children to make new friends from right across the community. The leisure centre is a neutral venue where everybody would feel comfortable.

“I’d be interested in hearing who was consulted before the council decided to do away with the summer scheme and what other activities the council is putting on in its place,” Mrs Porter said.

She encouraged other parents who were annoyed about the decision to get in touch with her at Ann’s Pantry (telephone 028 2826 0474) as she planned to organise a petition in protest.

Linda McCullough, Larne Council’s director of development, confirmed that leisure centre scheme would not be taking place this year.

She said that the average daily attendance over the four-week scheme has been falling over the past three years. In 2009, 135 children attended each day, in 2010 there were 90 per day and in 2011 a total of 80 children attended per day.

Mrs McCullough also said the net running cost of the scheme in 2011 was £17,117 to the council.

She said there was competition from other summer schemes in Millbrook, Antiville and Seacourt and this year, another scheme is planned for Craigyhill.

“Most of these schemes are funded by the North-Eastern Education and Library Board and it is difficult for council to compete to provide footfall in the current environment,” she said.

Mrs McCullough said there are also non-sporting alternatives for children currently operating at other council facilities, including a nature club and ‘Fun Fridays’ at Carnfunnock along with art and music workshops at Larne Museum and photography, arts and crafts activities at the leisure centre.

“This year the leisure centre staff and sports development team are focusing on a variety of different entertainment for children over the summer months by working in partnership with a number of agencies, clubs and governing bodies to provide a range of activities, a number of which have not been held in the past.

“It is hoped by providing this varied programme of schemes and events that each child will not only attend the scheme but learn to develop new skills and talents which will equip them well into the future and encourage them to join sporting and arts clubs throughout the borough,” she added.