BUILDING work on the long-awaited extension at Huntingdon Gymnastics Club is set to start – thanks to a £300,000 loan from the district council.

The world class gym in Mayfield Road has struggled for eight years to raise enough money to get their project off the ground – scrapping previous plans to build a competition-standard venue when funding for the £4million-plus project couldn't be found.

The gym, along with The Hunts Post, has recently launched a major drive to raise £100,000 to secure the extension's future.

Funds received so far include £50,000 from the Huntingdon Freemen and a grant of more than £200,000 from British Gymnastics. However, this grant was conditional on the project being fully-funded and able to proceed within strict time-frame – a condition which saw similar funding withdrawn after the Beijing Olympics.

Before Christmas, it looked as though the allocated funding would be lost once more as the club struggled to raise the £650,000 needed in time to meet funding deadlines. However, the guarantee of a loan from HDC to cover any shortfall means the club has been given the go ahead to draw down the money from British Gymnastics and begin work.

Councillor Jason Ablewhite, executive leader at HDC, said: “We are delighted that we can help encourage sporting activities for all by providing this loan to the Huntingdon Gymnastics Club. The proposed expansion will help to increase the numbers of people using the gym and safeguard its future. It is wonderful to be part of a project like this, which is an Olympic legacy, inspiring a generation.”

Despite the good news, the gym's head coach Paul Hall was keen to stress that fundraising MUST continue.

“Thanks to the wonderful support of Huntingdonshire District Council in guaranteeing the viability of this project we can, at last, start work on the new build. However, to rely on a substantial loan in order to make this dream a reality is far from ideal. I sincerely hope that we will be able to meet our fundraising target in the coming months, enabling us to focus on continuing our legacy of producing some of the world's best gymnasts from the local area, while providing affordable sport for all ages and abilities.”

The gym's members, staff and trustees have set themselves a target of raising £100,000 in six months and they have already collected more than £10,000.

Gymnast Harry O'Driscoll, 11, has pledged to sleep in a tent in his garden for a year to raise money – and has so far raised £1,500 in sponsorship.

Donations have been received from Huntingdon Rotary Club, Huntingdon Town Partnership, UK Power Networks, as well as the district council, and this newspaper's campaign bringing in new donations every day.

How you can help:

Businesses: The club is reaching out to local companies to get involved in fundraising by launching a series of corporate sponsorship opportunities.

Anybody interested in supporting the club should call Paul Hall on 01480 52343 or donate direct by following the link: www.localgiving.com/charity/huntingdongymclub

Children: The Hunts Post has teamed up with Huntingdon Gymnastics Club to organise the Huntingdon Gym Safari – an exciting trail around the gym designed for under-fives.

Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian at the event, which is free to enter subject to each youngster raising £10 or more.

The safari will take place on Sunday, March 3, from 10-11.30am. Sponsorship forms are available from The Hunts Post by e-mailing news@huntspost.co.uk