Victory for athletes over centre plans

New pool and diving centre - aquatic centre - at the John Charles Centre for Sport, Beeston.
New pool and diving centre - aquatic centre - at the John Charles Centre for Sport, Beeston.
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COUNCIL chiefs in Leeds have scrapped controversial plans to create a new base for gymnastics at the John Charles Centre for Sport.

The plans had caused alarm among members of the city’s athletic community who feared they may be left out in the cold.

Earlier this month, the council revealed proposals to convert the Beeston centre’s indoor athletics facilities into a top-class headquarters for gymnastics.

A council statement announcing the proposal said the City of Leeds Gymnastics Club, which oversees elite gymnasts at Leeds Metropolitan University’s Carnegie sports centre in Headingley, would be able to expand and host recreational gymnastics by making the switch to John Charles.

It also said the move would save the council £300,000 a year.

But the plans sparked alarm among athletes and members of Leeds City Athletics Club who argued they would be robbed of their important indoor training facilities.

They said the indoor centre was the only one of its kind in the area and its loss would be a major blow to athletics in the city and county.

Shortly after announcing the proposal, Coun Adam Ogilvie, executive councillor for leisure, acknowledged the plan had “caused a great deal of consternation” among athletes and said officers were re-examining the plans. Now the council has decided there will be no changes at the indoor athletics centre at the heart of the controversy.

A spokesman said: “Following the announcement of the initial proposal on February 3, consultation was held with all the key stakeholders and, as result, the council has decided not to proceed with the proposed change of usage of the indoor bowls and athletics centre.

“The proposed use of this facility was originated by Leeds City Council as part of our ongoing contribution to creating a strong working model for gymnastics in the city.

“Discussions have taken place with the City of Leeds Gymnastics Club since November 2010 over future options, but neither they or Leeds City Athletics Club were aware of this specific proposal until both were briefed simultaneously as the starting point for the consultation.

“We are committed to the future of both sports, and wish to reiterate our continued backing to the City of Leeds Gymnastics Club as they look to develop a new model in the city to allow gymnastics to thrive.

“While work continues between the club, the council and British Gymnastics to identify a suitable new location the council will continue to support their use of the existing facility at Leeds Metropolitan University.”

Stephen Ewen, 62, of Cookridge, who died of sepsis in 2017.

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