Angry residents are demonstrating against a plan to give their community’s last green space to a hockey club.
The Ralston Sports Center has been at the center of controversy since Kelburne Hockey Club announced plans to transform the site into its new home by building a state-of-the-art £600,000 complex.
Activists say if Renfrewshire Council proceeds with the transfer of community assets, local youth football clubs will fight for space to train and play their games.
One of those that says it has been badly affected is the Ralston Skill Centre, which offers a wide range of sporting and volunteering opportunities for young people aged five to 17.
They are based in the center and club bosses yesterday urged council leaders to show the plan the red card.
Norrie Murray, of the Ralston Skill Centre, said: “This is a very popular facility and is well appreciated by residents. We have been providing soccer training for local children for 25 years, but if this plan goes ahead there will not be enough space for us to train and it could ultimately lead to our closure.
“People use the center for fitness classes and children use it to play. It’s in the heart of the area and that’s where it should stay. The people at Ralston want to work with the council to improve the facility, but we don’t have that option.”
Youngsters using the facility will join local politicians to deliver a petition to bosses at Renfrewshire Council headquarters on Friday.
Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay says the closure of the center would be “disastrous” for the local community.
He said: “This plan stinks. The Ralston Community Sports Center is a crown jewel that the SNP-led council is ignominiously planning to outsource.
“They are only doing this to save money and should instead be focusing their energies on Nicola Sturgeon’s government in Edinburgh, which has made staggering cuts to local government budgets.
“I’ve seen and heard firsthand how angry people are about this and have no doubt in their determination to keep Ralston in public ownership and thrive for the good of all.”
Neil Graham, Scottish Conservative Councilor representing Paisley North East and Ralston, added: “Thousands of young footballers have developed their skills and kept fit at Ralston for over 25 years.
“There has been a lot of hype surrounding this proposed transfer of wealth but it is crystal clear that if it goes through these youngsters will be locked out and have nowhere else to go. The petitions will go to Renfrewshire Council on Friday and campaigners are optimistic that common sense will prevail.”
Kelburne Hockey Club’s Billy Anderson believes the new complex will be of great benefit to the community.
He said: “Being so close to the Ralston Center, which has not been used to capacity for many years and nearly closed in 2016, we wanted to take our hockey community and revitalize the center.
“A second hockey pitch for Renfrewshire, which then meets demand for hockey in Paisley, a modernized pavilion to increase fitness classes from under 20 to 50 a week, provides a social base for new and old groups expanding or starting want, a small cafe for members and visitors, and while hockey would be the main sport at the centre, it will be a multi-sport venue for other sports, particularly minority sports.
“We will continue to play football on the grass field, which can be used and booked at any time for junior and senior games [it] requires some investment in drainage, which we are willing to make to make it playable all year round instead of just seven to eight months a year.
“We are committed to the diverse use and availability of municipal green spaces and will continue to make them available to residents.
“We will be offering free hockey and pitch hire to all schools in Renfrewshire for active schools. Free use by Ralston Primary School during the day for their school activities, with the pavilion available for many health and wellness groups, social groups, local dance and yoga groups and children’s birthday parties.
“We are aware that this is a big change for everyone, but we believe the center needs it and that we can offer all these benefits to the local community as a responsible tenant. In many ways this major change takes a leap of faith, but we believe we can offer all of Paisley, and especially the local residents, a new and great experience for this legendary venue.”
Renfrewshire Council has received a CAT application from Kelburne Hockey Club for a long-term lease of the Ralston Community Sports Centre.
A spokesman added: “As with all CAT requests, we are legally required by legislation to consider all public building requests through due process.
“The application is currently open for consultation and we welcome any interested party wishing to submit a statement to send to email@example.com.
“After the July 1, 2022 deadline, the applicant will have 20 working days to respond to all submissions and then a recommendation will be made by the Community Asset Transfer Panel using the Council’s approved CAT Policy in due course.
“If it is agreed that the application meets the legal requirements to be considered, a report will be submitted to the Infrastructure, Land and Environment Council with a recommendation.”