CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save an outdoor activity centre from the axe have handed over a 2000 name petition demanding it be saved.


West Dunbartonshire Council decided earlier this year to shut Ardlui Outdoor Education Centre in June to save cash.

But local people want it to remain open and a Facebook page aimed at saving the centre from closure has 2200 likes.

The outdoor centre, which is based 25 miles outside the council area in Argyll and Bute, has been struggling financially since the council took over the lease in 2009. Last year alone it lost £274,000.

West Dunbartonshire is one of the few remaining councils in Scotland to operate an outdoor centre with other local authorities making use of schemes run by private companies and the voluntary sector.

Council bosses say Ardlui, which provides outdoor activities such as mountain biking, abseiling and canoeing, is not used by their primary pupils in year one to five and is rarely used by local secondary schools which opt for learning trips across the UK and abroad.

The lease of the centre is presently being marketed to public and private sector organisations in the chance it can still be available for local youngsters in the future.

A council spokesman said it was decided to close Ardlui as part of a series of cost cutting measures needed to save £17million as a result of cuts in funding by Scottish Government and increased costs.

Education convener Michelle McGinty said the centre has had big losses every year since it was taken over by the council.

She added: "Unfortunately, the centre offered a specific outdoor experience which wasn't appealing to our younger primary school children and didn't fit with our secondary schools. That meant there wasn't the regular use required to make it work operationally."

Depute education convener John Mooney added: "Hardly any councils in Scotland run centres of this kind and that is because it is a real challenge for the public sector to make them work profitably.

"By closing the centre, we are able to save taxpayers thousands of pounds a year and still provide the same access to outdoor experiences to our pupils.

"If an alternative provider takes on the lease that could mean even more significant savings for the council.

"It is also important to recognise the centre was in Argyll and Bute and so any economic benefits it brought went to Argyll and Bute rather than West Dunbartonshire.

"That makes no sense when it was our council that was covering the losses with West Dunbartonshire taxpayers money."

However, campaigners are determined the centre should remain open and have posted messages on Facebook.

One says: "Handing over the petition is not the end of the campaign unless the councillors have a meeting very soon and come back to us with an answer to the proposals that were put to them by the staff. To date, there has not even been an acknowledgement and that is not right."

Valerie Brown posted :"My daughter spent a week there last week and raved about how fabulous it was. It really would be a blow to close this centre.

"Life isn't all about exam results and winning, the kids have to learn to socialize and work within a team and what better way to teach them."