Residents oppose Ralston sports centre bid, say community leaders

Community leaders say residents are dead against a controversial move to transfer ownership of Ralston Sports Centre.

A row over the future of the Renfrewshire Council-owned facility, now operated by arms-length sports and leisure body OneRen, has been rumbling on for months.

Kelburne Hockey Club bosses have applied to Renfrewshire Council to secure a transfer of the property, which would see them gain control of the area’s sports centre.

The organisation are locked into a Community Asset Transfer bid, which allows public bodies to hand over management or ownership of a property asset to a community-led body.

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But the move has proved contentious , with community groups and politicians wading in.

Would-be operators Kelburne insist the centre would still remain at the heart of the community despite the £600,000 transfer move.

However, Allan Thompson, chair of Ralston Community Council, says: “A massive majority are against it.”

He told the Express: “Ralston had two community assets. The first was the swing park area on Allanton Avenue which was given to St Mirren a few years ago. At that time the community were told that we would always have the playing fields.

“This is now being challenged. We have no issue with Kelburne Hockey Club or hockey. We understand that they can have facilitates at the On-X and that funding is still available to them which seems to benefit hockey much more than any move into Ralston.”

Ralston Sports Centre is embroiled in controversy
(Image: Andrew Neil)

He said residents had been unequivocal in their consensus of opposition to the plans at public meetings held in the area, adding: “We represent the community and we have done a lot of work funding out what the community wants.

“We are not a huge community council and we have been out chapping doors, holding meetings and dropping leaflets.

“We have been doing this right from the beginning, we took a show of hands at our first meeting and the opposition in principle was near unanimous.”

Allan added: “There is cynicism, this hinges on a 50 year lease. They are going to tell us everything is going to be rosy in the garden.

“We only have one asset, let us keep it.”

Community leaders also have concerns over figures for use of the centre used to demonstrate that the centre is not being used to full capacity in the community, saying: “It omits the fact that opening hours were slashed, it was closed during the day and that the community repeatedly asked for hours to be as they were.

“The community don’t need a private organisation with charitable status to take our Community Sports centre to make it successful, we just need it to be open.”

Last week, Councillor David McGonigle, who represents the Conservatives in Houston, Crosslee and Linwood, branded the proposed transfer of the facility “badly misguided”.

Kelburne Hockey’s Club Secretary Billy Anderson fired back, accusing the councillor of being “disingenuous”.

He also hit back at Ralston Community Council’s views, saying: “They have had two meetings and they didn’t invite us to them.”

Mr Anderson admitted Kelburn had also hosted community meetings, saying one was a “difficult meeting” but added: “This is a big change for everybody so we expect that.

“Realistically, we are trying to change things and we hope to change things for the better. From 2016 when it was saved before,

They have recognised change needs to happen at the sports centre, the community council don’t like our plans, they have supposedly got their own plans but what we have found frustrating is that they are happy to criticise plans people have in place yet they are not prepared to show what they would do.

“I would like them to show the plans they have.”

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Community leaders also harbour concerns that football would not be able to continue at the site as the hockey pitches are unsuitable, however, Kelburne chiefs say football can continue to be played on the grass.

Mr Anderson earlier told the Express the club was committed to the community, saying: “This is going to benefit people across the whole of Renfrewshire, school hockey has nowhere to play, they are using football pitches. You can’t play hockey on a football pitch.

“Our asset transfer request was borne out of a lack of investment for many years in Renfrewshire, there was a plan for investment but that was withdrawn during Covid and we can’t play at Linwood because it doesn’t meet governing standards.

“We had to go and do this on our own.”

He added: “We want to keep the entry fee affordable, we want people to come in and use the gym.

“It will also be free for all the schools to use as well as after-school clubs and Active Schools during the summer. We will continue to host Ralston Community Games. We want people to come and use it.

“There are rumours that we won’t let anyone else use the facility, it will only be for hockey, and that’s not true. We’re not a private company, we’re a charity.”

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Daily Record – Paisley