Gym campaign gathers pace
NEARLY 800 residents have objected to a planning application that would force the closure of Majestic Gymnastic Academy.
More than 1,000 children a week use the facility, which has been operating from its site on Longwell Green trading estate for the past seven years.
But plans to redevelop the site don’t include a home for the specialist gymnastics building, refurbished with £50,000 funding from Sport England, despite initial promises to the contrary from the developer.
The plans from West Midland Authority Pension Fund propose replacing most of the warehouse-style buildings alongside Aldermoor Way and Marsham Way. They would be replaced with work space, retail or leisure outlets that could include a drive-through restaurant or a hotel. Up to 440 new jobs could be created and between 250 and 350 parking spaces added.
Many of the written objections from the public include comments about extra traffic that the development could bring.
Emma Hinton wrote: “The extra traffic associated with this development is extremely concerning. The roads already cannot cope with the traffic trying to get to the supermarkets and other shops around that area. To add to this is just madness!”
Beth Phillips wrote: “This area already suffers from severe congestion, particularly Aldermoor Way and the roundabout. Vehicles emerging from the site onto Aldermoor Way must creep out and I have witnessed and been subject to a number of near misses.”
Other objections are due to the potential loss of the Majestic building, whose lease is due to run out this September.
Nick Collins wrote: “As the proud parent of Majestic Gymnastics’ first ever GB athlete in 2016 I can’t believe that this proposal will be allowed to go ahead in its current form! Children thrive at this club and this is testament to the hard work and input of the owners, coaches, athletes and parents that have helped turned this gymnastics club into a valid key part of the local community.”
However, a few people have written to South Glos council in support of the development.
Peter Price-Higgott wrote: “Great redevelopment for the local area. It will bring job opportunities for local construction and local jobs for the incoming businesses thereafter.”
Majestic owners Michelle George and Candice Fry have collected more than 2,000 signatures on a petition against demolishing their building and hired a planning specialist to object to the proposal on their behalf.
The report from DLP Planning Ltd says booting out Majestic would contravene planning policy.
It said: “Core Strategy Policy CS23 seeks to protect community facilities, including public and private sports and recreation facilities. Such uses are to be retained unless it can be demonstrated that those uses have ceased, and there is no longer a demand, the facility is no longer fit for purpose, and suitable alternative provision may be made with easy walking distance.
“None of these conditions is met by the current application.
“Early discussions with the applicants had included proposals to relocate Majestic Gymnastics Academy CIC within the new development, and it remains their wish to work with the applicants to deliver a proposal that allow them to continue to operate on this site, in reach of the gymnasts who already benefit from this facility.”
Michelle and Candice, who met as child gymnasts and have been friends ever since, attended a planning committee meeting for Oldland Parish Council to discuss the planning application.
Michelle, 40, said: “We do not want the redevelopment to not happen necessarily. We think it’s a great opportunity for South Glos to have really nice area down here, which obviously it hasn’t got at the moment, but it’s just about us not being the casualty of that.”
She said they employ seven full-time staff, nine part-time staff and 15 youth leaders at the site, who would all lose their jobs if it is forced to close.
Candice, 35, said: “We want to secure the future of the club. We want to be assured that we can survive and have a long-term lease so that we can guarantee to our members and our athletes that they will have a space to train in their local area.”
She said the next closest club that offers TeamGym, the discipline Majestic specialises in, is nearly 100 miles away in Bracknell.
Cllr John Parker, chairing the meeting, said that the council had input into the South Glos local plan consultation expressing support to redevelop the site for employment and community activities.
He said: “This position is entirely consistent and fully supportive of the overwhelming community view that Majestic Gymnastics, and indeed any other community group or service provider, should not be disadvantaged or their future threatened by this redevelopment.
“Oldland Parish Council has supported Majestic since its inception and will continue to do so by offering our support to find a sustainable solution that gives Majestic the opportunity to not just survive but to grow and develop. I think we’re definitely on the same page.”
Like residents, the parish council expressed concerns about traffic.
Cllr Bruce Ryland said: “Traffic’s chaos as it is. On that roundabout by Asda on a Saturday afternoon they’re queuing almost back up onto the ring road. If you add extra things attracting people in there it’d be gridlocked, it’d be chaos.”
Mitigation suggestions included a one-way system through the retail park, more buses, an extra exit nearer the ring road, or introducing pedestrian bridges so traffic flow isn’t slowed.
Cllr Martin Farmer said residents of Craven Way had already been in touch to complain how much traffic goes through their residential roads to avoid the traffic jams at Marsham Way roundabout, and that this could increase if the trading estate is redeveloped.
He said: “On the flip side, I think the creation of 400 jobs is fantastic and the report talks about £30 million of investment with additional economic spillover into the local economy.”
Cllr Richard Pope said: “We don’t want that site left empty. We want something on that site and regardless there will be more traffic, so we have to try and monitor the routes of the traffic, not stop people building because it’s going to increase traffic.”
As well as Majestic Gymnastics, the neighbouring Flip Out inflatable play arena will also be removed under the plans, taking away two of the main places for local children to exercise indoors. Flip Out’s owners are currently in discussions about what will happen to the Bristol branch.
Following the parish council meeting, Michelle said: “It’s great to hear that they are fully supportive of our cause. However, I’m reserved in wondering how much their voice can sway things.”