AFTER over 40 years of operation, the Royal Borough could say goodbye to Phoenix Gymnastics Club as it faces closure.

The popular centre for youth gymnastics and daily PlayGym site in Water Oakley is on the verge of sale and redevelopment and there is no alternative site available.

Attempts were made to relocate, however a loan application that would allow them to build a purpose built facility in Fifield was refused due to the restrictive nature of the planning consent.

The planning permission states the building can only be used for gymnastic training by Phoenix, but the banks felt this would harm the resale value of the completed building, according to the chair of trustees Alisdair Thornton.

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According to the club, the current landlord of the Water Oakley site allowed an extra year for them to find a new home but is now ‘insisting’ Phoenix vacate the site by the beginning of May.

The outlook ‘looks bleak’ for the club that had, in pre-Covid times, a footfall of 1,000 children a week.

If the club were to disappear, 30 jobs would be lost and the borough would lose national level, professional gymnastics coaching, pre-school and recreational gymnastics for children aged 18 months and over and a daily PlayGym for babies, toddlers, and their carers.

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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 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.”