Sailing school sunk by cash flow woes

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ONE of Scotland’s top sailing schools - at Port Edgar Marina in Queensferry - is set to close later this year.

Edinburgh Leisure, which runs the Port Edgar Watersports Centre, announced this week it is to close in October due to financial constraints.

The facility, one of the top sailing schools on the east coast of Scotland, once offered tuition to double Olympic gold medallist Shirley Robertson as well as countless youngsters and adults from Queensferry and further afield.

The proposed closure is one of two made this week, the other being the Portobello Indoor Bowls Centre which will be transformed into a gymnastics and soft play area.

While Edinburgh Leisure had already intimated it would withdraw its management of the Port Edgar Marina next year, it was never anticipated it would close the watersports centre.

Graham Gardiner, operations director for Edinburgh Leisure, said this week: “Due to a number of factors outwith our control, including higher energy costs, tough trading conditions and no increased funding from the city council, we must look to make savings to ensure the long-term sustainability of the business.

“In order to ensure as many people in Edinburgh benefit from our services, we are forced to make difficult decisions about where our resources must be directed.

‘‘Following a detailed review of all Edinburgh Leisure managed services, the watersports centre is one that we, reluctantly, cannot continue to support.”

It is believed Edinburgh Leisure subsidises the centre to around £60,000 per annum but claim that usage is not enough despite almost 14,000 people using the facility.

Mr Gardiner added: “Financial realities dictate that, if we are to continue to progress and be successful as an organisation, compromises and difficult decisions will, on occasion, be required.”

Edinburgh Leisure said it will work closely with all those potentially affected by the decision and help customers find alternative water-based activity providers from October and redeploy existing staff where possible.

The closure comes just two years after Edinburgh Leisure took the decision to close the Recreation Centre at Ashburnham Road. Queensferry Rugby Club has since taken over therunning of the centre.

Monday’s decision was met with anger and disappointment.

A shocked Colin Keir MSP said: “There was never any decision to pull out of Queensferry. I am very concerned as the watersports centre is held in high esteem and we never saw this coming.”

He will now meet with Edinburgh Leisure bosses on Monday along with Scottish Justice Minister Kenny McCaskill, whose constituency covers the Portobello bowls centre, to discuss the closures.

Local SNP councillor Norman Work said he was saddened that Edinburgh Leisure has taken the decision to close the facility in Queensferry as it was always highly regarded for water-based sports.”

A disappointed Keith Giblett, chairman of Queensferry Community Council, said: “Originally when Edinburgh Leisure advised it was pulling out of Port Edgar it made a great play for retaining the training facility. A lot of young people from across Central Scotland have benefitted from the courses run from the facility. The question is: ‘What has changed to force the closure?’

“On a positive note, I think there could be interest from other providers who could provide a better service so it’s maybe the right time to move forward.”

Terry Kirchen, commodore at Port Edgar Yacht Club was optimistic, adding: “With around 14,000 people, the majority of them children, passing through the sailing school each year, it’s clear to me there’s a long-term future for something along these lines at Port Edgar. I believe people will come forward who share that view and are willing to pick up the baton.

“The sailing school is the beating heart of Port Edgar. I’ve sailed in and out of numerous Scottish marinas and none of them have the busy vibrant feel that Port Edgar has when the school’s in full swing.”