Tuesday, 04 August 2020

Gym closed to make way for cinema development

A GYM in Caversham has closed to make way for a possible new cinema.

Caversham Health and Fitness Club, which has operated from a unit above Waitrose in Church Street for more than 30 years, has been given notice to leave by August 22.

The centre closed when the coronavirus lockdown was announced on March 23 and it was hoped that it would re-open as soon as it was safe.

But landowner Hermes, of London, has terminated its lease after applying to Reading Borough Council for a change of use as part of the ongoing refurbishment of the St Martin’s shopping precinct.

The company wants to convert the space into a three-screen “boutique” cinema with about 250 seats plus a private screening room, bar and lounge area and a new, larger entrance off the main road with a lift to the first floor. It told the council that it was in talks with landowners over a new home for the gym, one of which was a plot off Archway Road to the rear which was previously occupied by the New Directions adult college.

It said it would look to provide somewhere bigger as it expected demand to increase.

But this week owner Amanda Adlem, who has run the gym since 2014, said she had decided to call it a day due to the continued uncertainty.

She told members on Facebook: “Before the pandemic there was hope but due to the Government closure and lack of communication from the freeholder regarding the proposed new site, we have had to make this difficult decision. We have been so lucky to have your support over the years and to have had amazing staff and made such amazing friends. This will never be forgotten.

“It’s not a decision that was taken lightly — each day we hoped for a miracle but no miracle came.

“We would like to thank you for your continued support during these difficult times and we’re only sorry that we didn’t get the chance to say goodbye properly.

“To us, this wasn’t simply a place to work but a second home. We have worked so hard over the years to keep our club here for you and our community… we are broken hearted [but] have no option.”

Mrs Adlem, of Westfield Road, Caversham, was a member of the gym and then took it over because she was concerned that it was in decline. She previously managed a dental surgery in Theale. The club has a fitness room and studio classes and also offered a range of sports therapies and beauty treatments.

More than 125 people left comments expressing sadness at the news with many saying they had been going to the gym for decades.

Hermes secured planning permission to overhaul the precinct in 2015 and started by refurbishing the frontages and pedestrianised areas in 2017. It intends to add new restaurant units and flats and originally proposed building a cinema above the Iceland store to the rear, then later above Superdrug on the main road.

The Caversham and District Residents’ Association welcomes the cinema in principle but says a replacement gym must be provided and has raised concerns that an extension at the front could attract litter and antisocial behaviour.

Hermes said it held regular discussions with all parties in an effort to resolve the situation.

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