Monday, 10 August 2020

Former members fight to save ‘premier’ sports centre

FORMER members of the Caversham Health and Fitness gym have opposed the plan to convert it into a three-screen cinema.

Peter Mann, who claims to speak for the majority of members, has urged Reading Borough Council to turn down the application.

He says the club is the only independent sports and fitness venue in the area and among the most successful in Reading.

It has been home to a popular squash club for 35 years and more recently started hosting racketball, which is also played on a squash court. It offers training sessions and has hosted charity matches. The club’s men’s team has won the Berkshire county championship 14 times and its leading player Rick Weatherall, of Emmer Green, has taken the individual title 12 times.

He said the loss was compounded because Rivermead leisure centre in Richfield Road is set to lose its squash courts under a proposed redevelopment.

Mr Mann, from Bix, said: “Over the years, the club has become one of the region’s premier centres for a sport that provides superb exercise and health benefits and in which Britain excels, perhaps because it’s so well suited to our climate. The club’s heritage is matched by the affection that its members, of all abilities and all ages, have for it. To make matters worse, they are losing their club just as alternatives also vanish.

“In place of an independent club that provides exercise, health and a social network for many in the heart of Caversham, there will be a three-screen cinema. Given the number of screens already available within a few miles and the absence of local demand before this appeared, this is an unnecessary but doubtless money-spinning imposition. At a time when sports facilities for all have never been more important and we should be doing everything we can to preserve the local character of our town centres, this represents the wrong choice.”

Stuart Milton, of Conisboro Avenue, Caversham, said: “Members feel losing the club is purely a financial decision, with the landlord and incoming developer wanting to generate greater income.”

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