Gym club’s fears over homes plan

Mark Hows, the chairman of Esprit Gymnastics Club, who is concerned about the effect the proposed development of the former Headlands School site could have on the club

Mark Hows, the chairman of Esprit Gymnastics Club, who is concerned about the effect the proposed development of the former Headlands School site could have on the club

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @Michael_Benke

A TOP sports body is assessing the impact the Headlands development will have on a nearby gymnastics facility.

A plan to build 152 homes, and a football pitch on the site of the former Headlands School was formally given the go-ahead this month but the neighbouring Esprit Gymnastics Club has expressed concern about how it will be affected.

Members have said the size of the car park will be reduced, thereby limiting any expansion, and a lack of changing facilities for the proposed football pitch will also effect them.

However, the council says the gym has been kept informed of the progress at all times and has had the opportunity to make a case.

The plan for the new homes was formally confirmed this week after the amount of Section 106 cash the developer Bellway will have to contribute to the community was decided.

Now British Gymnastics has said it is looking into the effect the development will have.

And Sport England has said it wants to examine the details of the section 106 agreement before deciding on the next course of action.

Neil Moulster, of British Gymnastics said: “We are aware of the club and have had a chat with them about the issue. “Esprit are a successful club and we know what they have done.

“British Gymnastics are currently looking into the full implications of the development. “We will work with the club and then decide what to do next.”

The development was initially agreed in 2011 but could not be formally approved until the amount of money Bellway will pay into the community was sorted out.

Sport England has said it wants to see the details of this agreement. A spokesman said: “In our role as a statutory consultee we responded to the development proposal in 2011.

“At that time we asked to be made aware of the final decision notice once the section 106 had been signed to confirm that our conditions had been included. We have yet to see this document.”

Mark Hows, the chairman of Esprit, has said the facility will not be able to grow with the development and wants more support.

He said: “We have more than 2,000 members with a huge waiting list. “The plans will mean our car park will significantly reduce, thereby limiting how we can grow.

“When you factor in the use of the football pitch there will be times our members have nowhere to park. There are no changing facilities, so they will come to the gym. “Football players in studded boots is not conducive with girls in tutus. It has been an incredibly frustrating process.”

A council spokesman said: “The council has a legal duty, which it can’t ignore, to get the best deal for any land which it is selling.

“Mr Hows has been kept up to date with the marketing process and a long period was provided to give them every opportunity to bid for the land.”

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