The St Paul’s con trick

First published in Letters

WHAT can I say of the Vale governance? Nothing complimentary.

Our present council bears little in common with the old Glamorgan County Council which gave me such support when, in 1961 I first offered to introduce gymnastics to the members of the Penarth Youth Club led by Mr Parry.

At first we used Victoria School hall, then Stanwell Grammar old gym, later as part of Penarth Youth Centre which was now led by Bert Jones. In those days local youth could choose from a vast range of activities and crafts which were very popular. It is sadly missed. Our gym section soon became one of the leading gymnastics clubs in Wales and produced Welsh and British champions, Welsh commonwealth and British Olympic representatives. Myself and coach Rita Keitch held prominent positions in Welsh and British Associations.

The rot began to set in when The Grammar School became – briefly – grant maintained and, together with the youth centre, we were evicted. Vale officials agreed use of the Pier Pavilion where we functioned for 17 years.

In appreciation of plans to redevelop the Pier Pavilion, we accepted the offer of use of St Paul’s Church which had the promise of a grant of £1,500 from Crest Nicholson. This to compensate for the demolition of the local community hall. The boxing club already in residence at the church, also with a long history of loyal commitment to the youth of Penarth and an enviable catalogue of honours, were to retain their facility which would be upgraded to a standard worthy of the work they do.

Despite free professional guidance from Nick Chandler who acquired estimates from local building companies, three winters have passed. A hole in the roof, no replacement of guttering and resultant stonework neglect later – and the council has reneged on its promises and has decided to demolish the building. A business plan requested could not be compiled without details of rental costs etc. A commercial fitness company have declared an interest and the local population vote in favour of the two sports clubs seems to be being ignored. Penarth Head Labour councillors who were great supporters when the Vale was Conservative led became anti once the council changed colour. Shame on them.

Penarth Gym Club still flourishes, but now operate in a superbly equipped factory unit on the edge of Barry. I still enjoy coaching but the main coach, Lesley McJennett can boast an ever growing membership. We will survive and we just hope that Penarth Boxing Club will too.

Gwynedd Lingard MBE

Leader, Penarth Gym Club

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