Oxford

Cherwell Gymnastics Club hit by Oxford City Council planning reversal

Campaigners at East Area Planning Committee meeting
Image caption Campaigners for the gym attended the planning meeting

A council has reversed its decision to allow a gymnastics club in Oxford to move to larger premises.

Cherwell Gymnastics Club moved to a warehouse in Blackbird Leys after an Oxford City Council planning committee voted to approve their application in October.

But on Wednesday the committee changed its mind because the premises were registered as a "key employment site".

Hazel Walsh, chairman of the club, said she was in "shock".

Mayfield Press, which is based next to the gymnastics club, said it might need to leave Oxford unless it has the warehouse to expand.

The club, which has more than 1,000 people on its waiting list, started its new term on 9 January.

Ms Walsh added: "I'm really disappointed and surprised.

"We will be fighting the decision as much as we can. A lot of people want a common sense approach, they want to support young people and support opportunities in the city."

Image caption The gymnastics club has more than 1,000 people on its waiting list
Image caption A warehouse in Blackbird Leys is at the centre of the tussle

According to the council report, following its decision last year "officers were made aware that a judicial review may be sought to quash any decision to grant planning permission [because] such a decision would be unlawful".

Mayfield Press opposed the club's taking over of the unit with managing director Cameron Thompson telling councillors it would put 85 jobs at his firm at risk.

He said: "It's very frustrating for us as the gym's essentially an afterschool club. The unit is empty during the day while we're looking desperately to house additional staff.

"Should this permission be granted, we will be forced to stagnate or we'll be forced to move."

Green councillor Dick Wolff, who voted to refuse planning permission, said: "There are people in that area that need employment.

"I have sympathy for the gym - they have really been dropped in it - my heart goes out to them.

"I think we should be doing whatever we can to find them alternative accommodation but this is not the place. It never was."

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