TV presenter: My emotional ties to Borders leisure centre

A TELEVISION journalist is alarmed about potential changes at a Borders leisure centre.

Former STV News presenter Halla Mohieddeen, who used to live in Blainslie, has expressed concerns about the future operation of Lauder Community and Leisure Centre.

Ms Mohieddeen, 40, wants assurances that the leisure centre will remain open and available for residents to use.

She said: “The Lauder leisure centre has played an important role in my life – and my family’s life too.”

Leisure centre chiefs told the Border Telegraph they have been “approached by a group keen to develop the centre’s services”. But the trustees added that the public will not lose access to the site.

Ms Mohieddeen is the principal presenter for Al Jazeera English in Doha, Qatar.

However, the former Earlston High School pupil says she remains grateful for Lauder’s leisure centre, which operates as a charity.

Ms Mohieddeen said: “I was first introduced to the centre through my mother.

“She started kettlebell classes there when my father became terminally ill, and she knew she’d need the strength to pick him up eventually.

“The classes became a lifeline for her, not just for fitness reasons, but because she began to meet other people and make friends there.

“This is essential when you’re a carer and your world becomes smaller and restricted to the person you’re caring for.

“I found this out when I too moved home to help my mum look after my father. It’s a very isolating experience.

“Not only are you dealing with the upsetting reality that a family member is dying, and their care is all-consuming, but you feel completely alone.

“I began to take classes at the leisure centre too and it provided a much needed escape, and social contact.”

Ms Mohieddeen described the classes as “affordable, and inclusive, with a real community vibe”.

“Anyone and everyone felt welcome,” said Ms Mohieddeen. “The place was an absolute lifeline for me.”

She added: “I benefited enormously from the leisure centre at a time when I needed that support the most.

“It breaks my heart that this vital community resource could be disbanded, and others who need the leisure centre at an increasingly difficult time, will go without.

“I urge the committee and the board to do whatever they can, to keep the centre running and available for the community to use.”

The secretary of the leisure centre issued a statement in response to Ms Mohieddeen’s comments.

The statement reads: “The Lauder Community and Leisure Centre is currently temporarily closed due to COVID-19 but it isn’t disbanding or at risk of permanent closure.

“We have been taking this time to discuss rejuvenation of the centre, looking at how it can offer more and better services to the local community.

“We have been approached by a group keen to help develop the centre’s services and we understand that any profits generated by this new venture would be ploughed back into the community.

“These discussions in no way mean disbanding what we currently do or that the community will lose access to the centre.

“We plan to consult with the centre’s users and local residents taking their views into account in any proposed changes.

“We recognise the important benefits of physical exercise for people’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly after the restrictions of lockdown, and the centre will seek to reopen for classes and exercise as soon as it is safe for us to do so.”

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “Scottish Borders Council is the landlord for this facility and therefore any of these changes would require formal consent from the council.”

Border Telegraph | News