What was once one of Clydesdale’s most popular public meeting places, Biggar’s Gillespie Centre, has been hit by an exodus of users forced out, they say, by rising rents.
It is alleged that recent booking cost rises and a reduction in the centre cafe’s opening hours have led to many townsfolk either expressing dismay or abandoning the centre, housed in a converted kirk, altogether.
However, the centre’s management responded by saying it has had no complaints in writing about its performance.
One despairing centre-based club organiser contacted the Gazette to express her alarm, stating: “We appear to be witnessing a sinking ship, and it’s extremely sad.”
Saying that her group had been using the centre for years but now: “I’m one of very few left renting space there due to a sudden increase in hall fees.
“I have grown very fond of the centre and enjoy a blether every week with the wonderful ladies who make delicious lunches and provide a relaxed, central meeting place for all ages.”
Another user said on Facebook: “I don’t understand what is going on in what used to be a hub of the community.
“I understand that every business has to be profitable, but to raise rents for all groups without making allowances for the types of groups – profit-making versus non-profit-making – and the number of lets you get from them makes no sense.” An organiser of a local children’s group claimed on Facebook that it moved out when faced by a 150% rental fee hike.
Another town youth group posted that it faced a 300% hike.
One local artist said her bill for using the centre for her annual show had rocketed 100% in a single year.
The Gillespie Centre Association said: “We are committed to providing a quality service for our members and working in an open and accountable way which builds the trust and respect of all our stakeholders.
“One of the ways in which we can continue to improve our service is by listening to the views of our members, customers and stakeholders, and in particular by responding positively to complaints and by putting mistakes right.
“We aim to ensure that making a complaint is as easy as possible.
“To date, we have not received any complaints and would welcome the oppportunity to answer any issues through our complaints procedure, which begins with receipt of a written complaint.”