An Ayr couple who started a petition slamming the new Ayr leisure centre say the community is fed up with having the ‘wool pulled over their eyes’.

John Ferguson was encouraged to create the petition – which has almost 1600 signatures – by his wife Valerie, a regular Citadel user.

While the couple had no target in mind when they posted the petition, they are now confident that the number of people signing it will outstrip the 2,601 responses the council received during its consultation.

John said: “I had used before, so I decided to give it a go and see what happens. I have been pleasantly surprised by the support it has had. Let’s see if makes any difference.”

Valerie regularly goes to classes like yoga and pilates, while John was a gym goer, some of the facilities less affected by the new plans.

For John, the issue is one of spending a large amount of money on a lesser facility.

He said: “I just think they are barking up the wrong tree with what they are doing.

“I don’t think they are trying to improve what they already have.

“My personal take is that it is ludicrous amount of money to be spending when we could do up what we have got for a fraction of the cost.

“We are going down a slippery slope with Ayr Town Centre.

Valerie said: “The petition gives us an idea of how the community feels, having had the wool pulled over their eyes so many times.

“Now to have these figures shows that the community is altogether getting a bit fed up.”

The council hadn’t learned any lessons, Valerie added, pointing to issues with a similar town centre leisure complex in Irvine.

“I was speaking to a girl from Irvine who said that it had been an absolute disaster. There is nowhere to park. You would think they would learn from that, but our council doesn’t learn from anything.”

She added, partly tongue-in-cheek: “I think we are ready to lead a revolution!”

The opening statement to the petition reads: “South Ayrshire Council want to build a new £45m leisure Centre in Ayr High Street, the cost has already risen from an initial estimate of £40m.

“This is to replace the existing Citadel Leisure Centre which, for a fraction of the cost, requires an upgrade.

“There are other more pressing needs in Ayr that could do with financial help e.g. North Ayr, Ayr High Street, Ayr Station, Belleisle Hotel, Ayr Promenade, local roads etc.

“The proposed Leisure Centre will not have as many activity opportunities as the present one e.g. high diving board, large multipurpose hall.

“The latter is presently used by several outside bodies such as Blood Donation and Antique Fairs as well as a recent Covid injection centre. There is no other multi-use public recreation hall as large as this in Ayr.

“SAC claim that a ‘consultation’ with the public has shown support for this move but this consultation was with an extremely small percentage of the population that either live within the Ayr area or use the existing facilities.

“We believe that this project is financially unwarranted; the consultation is merely a tick-box exercise and some of the support reasoning put forward as by SAC is unrealistic.

“If you agree with this petition, please support it.”

If the petition is submitted to South Ayrshire Council it will be subject to the council’s petition procedure, going before the chair of the Partnership Panel, Conservative Councillor Hugh Hunter and Head of Regulatory Services Catriona Caves.

The council states: “When an application for a petition is received, the Head of Regulatory Services will consider the issues raised in light of the preceding provisions and, through discussion with the Chair of the Partnerships Panel, determine whether it is appropriate for the Panel to consider the petition.

“The Head of Regulatory Services will reach a decision and notify the lead petitioner, or contact the lead petitioner to seek clarification on the terms of the petition, within 20 working days of receipt of the petition.”

The petition can be found here