Petition and campaign against Wasps' training facility plans following decision to not buy land near Leamington
Wasps Rugby Club are being told to buzz off by grass roots teams over their plans to buy a community sports facility in Warwickshire and turn it into a training base.
In October The Courier reported that, after months of discussions, the professional rugby club had decided not to buy land near Old Leamingtonian's Rugby club on the outskirts of Leamington and had instead opted to purchase the site of the Henley-in-Arden Sports Centre owned by Warwickshire College Group (WCG).But, this week, a newly formed campaign group named The Henley Sports Centre Alliance has launched a petition against the plans which has gained more than 1,600 signatures already.
It has also provided responses from sports clubs who currently use the facility and the nearby Henley–In-Arden Medical Practice which either object to Wasps' plans on grounds that the facility will be taken away from the community and have a negative impact on the town.
A statement from the alliance, formed by football coaches Russell Cox and Ross Hutchison, says: "If we believe what we read, there are only 100 members of the gym that will be affected by the closure.
"This is a gross misrepresentation of the potential impact on the wider community.
"There are in fact almost 300 users of the gym, many of whom are there after recommendations from the Henley Medical Practice.
"The facilities also include the sports hall and the smaller fitness studios, the astroturf and grass pitches.
"There are ten local grass roots football clubs that use the facilities, each of whom have several teams including Henley Forest, Claverdon, Hockley Heath, Central Ajax, Henley School and KES play hockey there, for KES this is their home ground.
"It is also used by Stratford Hockey Club. The local cricket clubs practice there as well as Claverdon Rugby Club.
"Several of the above clubs have sent their initial thoughts on the potential effects.
"Moving indoors to the sports hall, which has a Community Use Order in place, we have The Warwickshire Bears, our disabled basket ball team who have used the facility since it opened, netball clubs, children’s cricket clubs, weightlifting, Pilates, the list goes on and on.
"Again, documents stating the effect on these clubs is included.
"The closure of such a valuable local resource would have a far greater impact on the local community than current suggestions.
"There are over 1,200 people a week that pass through the gates - gates that must remain open for the benefit and health of our community.
"The concern is, that the sale is completed and the new owners close the site, it then remains empty until such time that our local sports clubs have been forced to disband and, the council decide the site is redundant and needs developing – hey presto planning is granted.
"The financial implications to our community and local businesses would certainly be felt, but more importantly the health and wellbeing of our residents would be adversely affected by the proposed closure of the site.
Nadhim Zahawi, who was the MP for Stratford-upon-Avon prior to the announcement of the forthcoming General Election, has met Wasps chairman Derek Richardson and the club's chief executive officer Steve Vaughan concerning the plans.
Mr Zahawi said: "It was very apparent to me that Wasps are extremely excited about this move and are clearly determined to play their part in the Henley community and to make the facility work for all residents.
"Wasps are a fantastic West Midlands sports team and brand and it is great news they have chosen Henley and the Stratford district to be their new home."
For the petition, click here.