Community groups and campaigners have expressed relief at a decision to u-turn on the closure of 39 leisure facilities across North Lanarkshire.

The local authority's Labour group announced earlier today that it would move to "protect" community assets, despite having only last week voted to shut them.

Dismay at the decision prompted wide-spread community action with letter writing campaigns and petitions set up to try to persuade councillors to change their minds.

While it is felt locally that the correct move has been made, community members spoke of the stress endured over the past week as local facilities hung in the balance.

READ MORE: North Lanarkshire Council is bringing the shutters down on my childhood

Author Damian Barr has written of the importance Newarthill Library had in his childhood and previously campaigned for the future of the facility when it was previously threatened with closure in 2016.

Mr Barr said: I am very glad that Newarthill Library has been saved along with all the other facilities that were threatened by North Lanarkshire Council decision.

"This shows that politicians can listen and can change."

However, the author's delight is tinged with dismay at the worry this may be little more than a temporary decision until after the forthcoming Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election.

He added: "But this feels more like a reprieve than a long-term decision.

"It would be incredibly cynical if Labour did u-turn on their u-turn after the upcoming by-election.

"For me, this is not a party political matter, these are all essential community services and the communities using them deserve continuity and respect.

Donna Collins, vice president of Bellshill Sharks swimming club, said the group is thrilled that their pool has been saved.

She said: "We are just absolutely delighted, we are over the moon.

"We really didn't expect it, it was a big shock this morning. At the back of 10am my phone started pinging and pinging."

The Bellshill Sharks have been vocal campaigners for the retention of the Sir Matt Busby sports centre and swimming pool, where its teams train.

"It has been a collective effort from everybody: we have concerned parents, concerned children and concerned committee members, people giving us ideas all the time about what we might do next and who have stepped up to show their support.

"I am in the Sir Matt Busby sports centre every day except a Saturday and it is always bustling.

"The community was really behind it staying open. Yes, it could do with some upgrades but it's surely better to invest some money in making the facility more attractive and then more people will want to use it."

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Seven pools were under threat across North Lanarkshire and Ms Collins pointed out the closures would leave young people facing long journeys to train at remaining swimming pools.

While the campaign has been a success, Ms Collins said locals are very well aware of the political machinations rumbling in the background.

The Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election is just 48 hours away - with problematic optics for Scottish Labour that a neighbouring council voted to decimate public services.

Ms Collins added: "One major issue was there was no public consultation done about it so for the community it came out of the blue.

"We had several politicians come out to visit us and they were really supportive but I don't know how politics really works so you are left asking who you can trust.

"Are they being honest and upfront with you? Is that the true story they're telling you? I don't know who you can trust."

The Sharks's petition had, on Tuesday morning, collected more than 10,000 signatures.

Ms Collins added: "It just shows you people do care and we have managed to do something.

Other grassroots groups and local residents joined in the protest with Spotlight Shotts, a voluntary organisation formed to promote the Arts in and around Shotts, using its social media presence to push local politicians.

A petition begun by resident Clare Hall also gathered around 4000 signatures and read: "It is important to note that closing these facilities would disproportionately affect vulnerable members of our community who rely on them as safe spaces for learning, exercise, and socialising.

"The facilities will be a lifeline for many.

"By closing libraries alone we risk limiting access to knowledge for children who may not have resources at home or adults seeking employment opportunities through online resources."

Meanwhile, two squads of Sharks swimmers are heading off shortly to warm weather training camp in Majorca and had had the thought of losing their home pool hanging over them.

Ms Collins said: "We are more than a swimming club, we are a family here and the young people were heartbroken at the idea of coming home and their pool being shut.

"I am just so glad it has been overturned."