Pool plans: pulling a rabbit out of a hat!

Ron Scrimgeour
Ron Scrimgeour

A former Angus Councillor has questioned the possible siting of a new community campus at Forfar Academy and described the timing of its announcement as “mischievous and self serving.”

Ron Scrimgeour, who stepped down as an SNP councillor in 2007, commented: “A new swimming pool for Forfar! There must be an election coming up.”

In a letter to the Dispatch, Mr Scrimgeour said any announcement about investment in one of our burghs should be welcomed, but the timing and method for announcing a possible new community pool caused him “great concern”.

He said: “We are constantly told there are community plans, community planning meetings, strategic plans, local plans and economic development plans. Supermarkets and housing developments are held up or vetoed because they do not conform to long-term plans for Angus or Forfar. And yet, 12 weeks before the council elections, we have a rabbit pulled out of a hat for Forfar, in much the same way as the same rabbit was pulled out of the hat for Montrose five years ago.”

Councillor Scrimgeour had problems with the possible siting of the pool on the town’s periphery, asking how it could be referred to as a community pool? To him community facilities are usually in the community, “not perched on the northern edge two miles or more in some cases from the centres of population”.

He continued: “It may be good news for Forfar Academy and the organised sports club that use the playing fields there. Ordinary people, without access to private cars and for whom it is too far to walk, will not gain much benefit from this pool. Without public transport it will be difficult for older people to access this multi £million centre.”

Experience of other schools with peripheral locations, including Brechin, Monifieth and Carnoustie which have community pools, shows the community does not use them to maximum advantage.

He pointed out there were no prior discussion, no range of options for spending and no mandate regarding the community campus.

“This is a “wow factor” announcement that other prospective candidates will find difficult to disagree with or challenge, despite being only half thought out. The rabbit out of the hat becomes the elephant in the room that anyone else in the community is frightened to challenge and be labelled “spoil sport”.

“The fact is that this so called “community facility” has been announced without proper dialogue and other priorities being considered. It seems perverse that Forfar might get a new pool but still does not have a hotel big enough to cater for even a modest wedding.

“To pull this rabbit out of the hat so near the election and after four years and eight months of a council’s life is mischievous and self serving.

“Forfar needs strategic leadership, creative thinking and genuine community involvement. Priorities need to be set based on widespread consultation.

“Chapelpark School stands derelict while the award winning Pitstop is struggling for funding to keep its hugely popular and successful programmes running. Has this been discussed at community planning meetings? Forfar is crying out for a volunteer centre similar to the highly successful one in Arbroath. The Chapelpark site could house many such agencies. Can this be an alternative to the community pool and have any of our strategic planning bodies considered this. Do we have a choice or does the political juggernaut just keep moving building pool after pool on the same sites as schools?”

Councillor Scrimgeour offered up a raft of proposals to best utilise town centre sites, including Forfar Library and Tayside Police’s Eastern Division Headquarters which he feels may not be needed once the new Scottish force comes into being. He also listed the Strang Street works which he described as a “blot on the landscape” and which could be an ideal site for a sports and leisure complex, including a pool.

“It may be that many of the ideas stated above are impractical but our community is full of people with practical and imaginative ideas and business plans. Sadly there does not seem to be an effective forum for them to air views and vitalise the county town.

“The time to ask these questions is now, not after the election. The rabbit out of the hat swimming pool is a sadly a cynical ploy to keep us from asking questions and having a major say in how our taxes are to be spent.”