Penarth boxing and gym clubs say they feel 'betrayed' by Vale Council
PENARTH Amatuer Boxing Club (ABC) members say they feel “betrayed and shocked” by the Vale Council’s decision to put the future of their 36-year home, St Paul’s Church, out to public consultation.
Along with Penarth Gymnastics Club - who had hoped to jointly use the Arcot Street facility as their base after vacating their 17-year home at Penarth Pavilion - the boxing club say they feel ‘duped’, after the run-down council-owned property was closed on health and safety grounds in February 2011.
The decision to consult on the building’s future has been taken by the Labour-led council administration voted into power in May.
But just months before, the two clubs - which are used by up to 400 Penarthians and people from across the region every week - were told by the previous Conservative-led administration that they would be given a permanent home at the church, with £250,000 included in the Capital Programme to make it habitable again.
Kevin Seal, secretary of the boxing club, said news of the consultation had dashed their hopes once again.
“When the facility at St Paul’s was first withdrawn from Penarth ABC, it was understood that following remedial work the boxing gym would re-open,” he said.
“Within a short period of time though, it became clear that the problems were much larger.
“Since then much time has been spent by officers of both clubs, in conjunction with professionals, to complete a feasibility study of the property - and latterly a full estimate for refurbishment was provided to the council.
“Just prior to the elections the local authority was positive about the future of the two clubs, and it appeared that the final obstacle was not whether the funds would be made available, but how they would be managed.
“But not a single phone call from anyone at the new authority has ever been received by any member of Penarth ABC,” he claimed.
“So imagine our horror to read about the consultation.”
Mr Seal is also angry about the proposal put forward for the site by local property developer, Simon Baston – who he said was consulted for advice on the structure and remedial works at St Paul’s by the boxing club itself some time ago.
The council told the Penarth Times (October 4) that although aware of that proposal, there is no intention to hold any discussions on the matter at present, but Mr Seal said: “XB Properties would not enter into any agreement with the council unless there are serious rewards for them as a private developer.
“We believe we should have priority consideration at the site because of the work the two clubs have done in Penarth over the decades.
“But we are worried that the Vale will turn its back on us in favour of selling the land to a private developer - or wait until the building is beyond repair, and it might not survive this coming winter as it is.
“It is about time that the council was up front about its intentions, and made contact with both clubs,” he added.
“We will not allow ourselves to be treated in this contemptuous way and will fight for that which should be ours - and more importantly for Penarthians and their children to have the benefits of the facilities available from both clubs.”
Penarth Heights developer Crest Nicholson, in its section 106 agreement with the Vale Council, targeted St Paul’s as the designated recipient of £800,000 ‘to provide or enhance community facilities within the vicinity of the Penarth Heights site’ - but the local authority has not yet said how that money will be spent.
At present the boxing club is using a facility in Station Approach thanks to generosity of a local businessman, while the gym club is renting a unit at Ty Verlon Industrial Estate in Barry with substantial overheads - using savings that had been earmarked for new equipment and facilities at St Paul’s. Former Olympic gymnast Gwynedd Lingard, who founded Penarth Gym Club more than 50 years ago, said she felt it was ‘clear that the local authority did not value their work’.
“We have been let down badly again, and while the old Conservative council was guilty of dilly-dallying about a decision, the new Labour administration have completely reneged on promises made before they were in office,” she said.
“I hope they are all utterly ashamed of themselves.
“Where once there were councillors who had values and genuinely cared about the community they serve, I fear those days are long gone.
“We will have to move heaven and earth to afford the rent at our current home for much longer,” she added.
“But we will carry on. Unfortunately though, much of our time may now be taken up fundraising, when we could be spending time with the kids.”
Vale Councillor for St Augustine’s, Gwyn Roberts, said the aim of the consultation was to give residents in the area a chance to voice their opinion.
“The people of this area have never had a say in what their community needs,” he said. “They did not have a say when the old community centre was demolished or when it was decided that St Paul’s should be handed over for the exclusive use of two sports clubs.
“We have no ulterior motive in launching a consultation other than giving local people a voice. It's what we promised to do. Once we know what local people want, we will work with them towards achieving that.
“We recognise that any consultation needs to be carefully worded to avoid bias and so we are working with the Vale Council's consultation officer to make sure the process is impartial,” he added.
“In the meanwhile, until we have an outcome from the consultation, the council will continue to talk to the clubs involved.”