'Lessons must be learned' from Phoenix Gym closure, councillors say

Shay Bottomley

shayb@baylismedia.co.uk

Councillors congregated in Maidenhead Town Hall for the first full council meeting of the year on Tuesday and approved a commitment to support sport and leisure across the borough.

Cllr Ross McWilliams (Con, Cox Green) brought the motion to full council following the closure of Phoenix Gym in June.

The lead member for sport and leisure’s motion sought to:

  • Work with existing gymnastic providers to understand the facilities that are required to meet demand, including how existing facilities can be best used.
  • Identify opportunities to work with third parties to finance, build and manage a new, purpose-built gymnastics facility.
  • Welcome a commitment in RBWM's forthcoming Sport & Leisure Strategy to support the delivery of a new, purpose-built gymnastics facility in partnership with a third party.

Reflecting on the closure of Phoenix Gym, Cllr McWilliams said it became clear to him that ‘a lot could and should have been done differently’, and added that there ‘could have been better communication’ as the gym faced closure.

He added: “RBWM is committed to having more residents, more active, more often and losing community assets of a purpose-built [facility] supporting more than 1,000 young people is clearly not the outcome any of us wanted.

“Whilst some of those children have found support elsewhere at some of our other fantastic providers, many children have either given it up or are having to travel long distances.

“Clearly, there is a demand for additional facilities and provision within the borough.”

He added that the motion was ‘the first step in what is going to be a long, long journey’, but it was important given the context of Phoenix Gym’s closure.

Councillors then discussed the motion before them, with Cllr Simon Werner (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) welcoming the motion whilst paying tribute to Phoenix Gym.

“It will be absolutely fantastic when we’re getting this new recreational gym, and we’re going to be supporting it,” he said.

“I just hope that the council has learnt its lesson.”

Councillors were generally supportive of the motion, with Cllr Julian Sharpe (Con, Ascot & Sunninghill) calling for a provision in ‘the south of the borough’.

Cllr Geoff Hill (tBF, Oldfield) said that he ‘very obviously’ would support the motion, adding that he mourned the loss of Phoenix Gym as well as SportsAble in his own ward.

However, Cllr Helen Price (tBF, Clewer & Dedworth East) said the evidence-based nature of the Royal Borough’s corporate plan conflicted with the motion.

“What’s being proposed here in part three is that we are being asked to make a commitment to support a new purpose-built gymnasium, but I haven’t seen the evidence to go behind that,” said Cllr Price.

“I’m very, very reluctant to vote on something where I haven’t seen the evidence, and that’s what I would like to see before I can prepare to support the motion in its entirety.”

Cllr Price joined a number of opposition members in hoping the council had ‘learnt its lesson’ from the closure of Phoenix Gym.

Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor) said she would support the motion ‘because it asks for a commitment from the council to support the delivery’.

“But obviously, I, like Cllr Price, would like a bit more meat on the bone about how we’re going to support this moving forward. I understand that any capital spend will need a business case, and that would have to support itself.”

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