Phoenix gymnastics club faces closure after loan refused

Adrian Williams

Adrian Williams
Phoenix Gym enters Aviva Community Fund vote for new floor

The Phoenix Gymnastics Club is on the verge of closure after over 40 years of operation in the Borough. 

The club based in Water Oakley has been refused a loan application that would allow it to build a purpose-built facility in Fifield. The club said this is due to the 'restrictive nature' of the planning consent.

According to Phoenix, the planning states that the building can only be used for gymnastic training and the bank felt that this severely impacted the value of the completed gym.

Its other attempts to generate the funds have come up short – through fundraising efforts secured pledges of £700,000, this still left the club with a shortfall of more than £1m.

Its current site at Water Oakley is on the verge of sale and redevelopment. The club was allowed to 'hang on' for an extra year by the landlord, but they are now insisting Phoenix vacates by the beginning of May.

With no alternative site available, the outlook ‘looks bleak’ for the club that had a pre-COVID footfall of 1,000 children a week.

Potential alternative sites have been deemed either unsuitable, unaffordable or lacked adequate parking facility.

Chair of trustees, Alisdair Thornton said: “It’s absolutely devastating that despite being as profitable as we have ever been, and having successfully weathered the worst pandemic in recent times, such a popular and loved youth sports club should be allowed to fail due to a single planning condition. 

“We can afford to service a loan but no-one will lend to us due to the notional re-sale value of the completed building.”

Lynn Bushell, Phoenix Centre director added: “Despite being a registered charity [we] have stood on our own two feet whilst providing top class gymnastics training to thousands of Borough children.

“We have previously received very little in the way of grants from RBWM, but now we need help and our last hope is that local and central government will step in and provide a lifeline for our wonderful facility and help us build a home for the next 125 years.”

If the gym closes, the borough would lose a facility providing national-level professional gymnastics coaching, recreational gymnastics for children age 18 months up and a daily PlayGym for babies, toddlers and their carers.

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