Olympic Gym plans saved after access dispute resolved

HUNTINGDON Olympic Gym s £4.5million redevelopment will go ahead after a dispute about access rights looks to have been settled. The expansion plans had been thrown into doubt after the gym was asked to pay a £20,000 fee to use a road leading to its propo

HUNTINGDON Olympic Gym's £4.5million redevelopment will go ahead after a dispute about access rights looks to have been settled.

The expansion plans had been thrown into doubt after the gym was asked to pay a £20,000 fee to use a road leading to its proposed new entrance.

However, on Thursday (December 11) Huntingdon Town Council, which owns the land on which the road is built, agreed in principle that the gym could use the road without have to find a lump sum.

The gym would instead pay a share of the maintenance costs.

The gym already has planning permission to begin the development, but on condition that vehicle access is via Mayfield Road and through council land leased to the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Therapy Centre and St John Ambulance.

Despite having the power to grant the gym access, the council said previously it should be the decision of the two charities.

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Delays in settling the access dispute meant the gym could have lost a £500,000 Cambridgeshire Horizons' grant - it was given on the basis the gym would start work on its plans in January.

Chairman on the Huntingdon Gymnastics Club Tracy Crosland told The Hunts Post she was delighted with their decision, which was made by the council's finance committee and must still be ratified by full council.

"We said from the start that we would pay our share of the maintenance and so we are very pleased with the decision."

Ms Crosland added: "Parents and volunteers at the gym have worked really hard and will continue to work hard until the agreement is official and not just in principle."

The gym had support from the majority of councillors.

At Thursday's meeting Councillor Tom Sanderson told his colleagues: "It seems clear to me we have always supported this project and should grant the gym club access.

"If we don't then I believe the residents of this town will not forgive us.

"It's effectively a one time chance for the gym club and if they do not get the help they need then the project will most probably collapse."

Some disagreed.

Cllr Chris Osborn suggested the £20,000 the charities had asked should be paid for by the council to resolve the dispute.

"It's a sad state of affairs when three charities can't come to an agreement over a sum of money which is effectively so small," he said.

Cllr Chris Osborn also complained that the MS Therapy Centre would lose two car parking spaces when the developments went ahead.

Chairman of St John Ambulance committee, Jeff Dutton, warned there could be "legal battles".

Mr Dutton said St John Ambulance had built the road and wants recompense for the road, and fencing and car parking spaces that would be removed.

"We get money from public donations whereas the gym club gets fees. The extension will at least double those fees.

"Nobody wants the gym to fail as we all want to see our Olympic medallists coming from there."

Originally, the two charities had tried to charge the gym - also a charity - £70,000 to use the road when the town council could grant access for free.

Chairman of Huntingdon MS Therapy Centre, Simon Mason, argued access should not be free for the gym.

"We fully support the development of the gym and want to reach a mutually beneficial agreement but we want our property to remain secure and protected."

The £500,000 first stage gym's development, which involves a new entrance hall, new car parking and a new security system, should begin early next year.

The £4m second stage - a new gym hall, along with a community room with new showers and other amenities - still require more funding.

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