Gym makes attempt to save its £4.5million expansion plans

HUNTINGDON Olympic Gym is making one more attempt to save its £4.5million expansion plans from being scuppered by demands for £20,000. The gym is ready to start work on new facilities that would allow more people to get involved in gymnastics and provide

HUNTINGDON Olympic Gym is making one more attempt to save its £4.5million expansion plans from being scuppered by demands for £20,000.

The gym is ready to start work on new facilities that would allow more people to get involved in gymnastics and provide its elite athletes with a fantastic platform for the London 2012 Olympics.

However, a dispute over access rights across land owned by Huntingdon Town Council is putting the scheme in doubt.

The council's leaseholders - St Johns Ambulance and the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre - want the gym to pay £20,000 to use an access road constructed six years ago.


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The gym, which is also a charity, says it does not have any spare cash to make such a payment.

Now the club's £500,000 grant from Cambridgeshire Horizons to pay for the first phase of work is under threat - Horizons has said if work is not underway by January, it will have to "reprioritise" the funding.

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Tomorrow (Thursday) at a meeting of the council's finance committee, representatives from the gym will try to persuade councillors to grant a right of access.

Club chairman Tracy Crosland told The Hunts Post: "We are absolutely devastated at being so close to starting work and now to face losing all that money.

"We hope even now to persuade the council to grant us access over the road and grant us our leases so that we can convince our funders that we are ready to go.

"I personally cannot understand how the council can take this stance when the objectives of both the club and council appear to be so close and when we all know how much youth facilities in the town are needed and yet unsupported.

"It's not in the council's interests for the improvements not to happen."

The town council told The Hunts Post that the matter needed to be decided by the tenants. But this allows the charities to demand money from the gym when the council could prevent this situation.

A spokesman said: "The land is leased to St John Ambulance who have built the road and never intended for it to be used by anyone else except themselves and the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre.

"We believe it should therefore be the decision of St John Ambulance as to whether or not the gym should be allowed to use the road.

"A motion was put to us in October that we should grant the gym club right of access. That flew in the face of the strategy we have been following to date which is to allow our tenants to decide, but it's being considered by the finance committee.

"The council wants the best outcome for all parties involved in this discussion."

The planning permission for the extension is dependant on the club accessing the site from Mayfield Road and closing the access from Claytons Way.

"We have got the funding, we have got the planning permission, all we want is the access and the leases and they're stuffing it up - it's just so frustrating," said Ms Crosland.

"But now the pressure is on us with the January deadline and this meeting is the last opportunity we have for the council to say 'yes'."

The improvements would include a new entrance hall, security systems, car parking, a new gymnastics hall and a new community room with showers

"We don't have enough facilities at the gym so the likes of Olympic bronze medallist Louis Smith have to wait in line with the kids to practice," said Ms Crosland.

"The kids are great but when you have Louis sitting and waiting it's a bit of a joke. If he wants to have a shower he has to go home, and we should really have these facilities at the gym."

The gym also needs to renew its lease with the council - it expires in 2012 - but the access hurdle needs to be cleared first.

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