11:43AM, Thursday 17 March 2016
There were screams of excitement, cheers of relief and tears of happiness as Phoenix Gym was granted planning permission at Maidenhead Development Control Panel last night.
The controversial application for a new purpose-built gym in greenbelt land north of Longlea Nursing home in Fifield had been recommended for refusal by planning officer Victoria Gibson and Bray Parish Council.
More than 100 gymnasts, parents and supporters of the gym filled the Desborough Suite in the town hall to eagerly await the decision.
Speaking passionately for the application, Debbie Johnson, trustee of Phoenix Gym said: “I know you care about children’s health and you supported Oldfield school, Manor Green and Alexander Devine.
“The time has come for a new facility of British Gymnastics standard, fit for purpose, which will give the children the best chance of success.”
However Grenville Annetts, chair of Oakley Green and Fifield Community Association OGAFCA said granting permission would be a ‘recipe for disaster’ and spoke about the increased traffic that would come through Fifield, the risk of flooding and the concern of building on greenbelt land.
Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) said that he did not believe this was the right location, before stepping out of the room so he would not participate in the vote.
Cllr Phillip Love (Con, Belmont ) was quick to show support for the gym and asked if conditions could be attached if permission was granted.
Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray), Cllr Derek Wilson (Con, Oldfield) and Cllr Leo Walters (Con, Bray) stressed that this was the wrong site for the gym, and said it should be refused.
Cllr Burbage said: “I don’t believe this justifies very special circumstances and I think it is possible for another site to be found.”
A motion to refuse planning approval fell, with four votes for, and six against.
Cllr Richard Kellaway (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said it was a 'splendid' location for a gym and didn't believe there would be much of an increase in traffic.
A second motion was then voted on to grant planning permission, subject to conditions relating to the risk of flooding and the drainage plan to be modified and improved by Phoenix Gymnastics.
The suite erupted into cheers as planning permission was then granted, as six members of the panel voted for, and four members voted against.
In a named vote, Cllr Burbage, Cllr Adam Smith (Con, Riverside), Cllr Walters and Cllr Wilson all voted against the application.
Cllr Kellaway, Cllr Clive Bullock (Con, Cox Green) , Cllr Gerry Clark (Con, Bisham and Cookham), Cllr Maureen Hunt (Con, Hurley and Walthams) , Cllr Claire Stretton (Con, Boyn Hill) and Cllr Love all voted for the application.
Speaking after the meeting, Lynne Bushell, centre director at Phoenix Gym, said the news is a ‘great relief’.
She said: “We were all so chuffed with the decision, and it was great that so many of our members came down to support us."
"We want to get going as soon as possible, and arrange a building schedule."
"We have been shortlisted for a grant from Sport England for £400,000 which would go towards the £1.2m building, which we are now hoping to receive."
"We also have a booked investigations on the site next week so we can look at how to improve the drainage, we want to be good neighbours and we don’t want to move into a site which is going to flood."
"Once we get a report from last night with the conditions we can start to plan ahead."