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Gloucestershire Business News

Skateboard park in Stroud where Olympic stars trained faces closure

A Gloucestershire skateboard park which helped Team GB Olympic competitors train during lockdown - including gold medallist BMX rider Charlotte Worthington - is being forced to close at the end of the month.

The owners say Stroud District Council is putting 'profit before the wellbeing of the community'.

Jerry Norman, founder of RUSH Skatepark, told Punchline Gloucester: "It's heart-breaking. My wife Michelle and I, along with our team, have put out heart and souls into this park from the very start. We've created an international standard facility here. Destroying it is just bonkers."

The Skateboard park is one of a number of enterprises in old buildings at Brimscombe Port in Stroud facing eviction to make way for redevelopment.

Jerry said: "I'm all for the development of the port. I think it will be great, but I think the council need to listen to the community and it needs to be a place of destination not a housing estate.

"The port has never been housing. It's always been industrial. We could create something really special but it needs to be for employment and leisure and not for housing.

"They've put profit before the wellbeing of the community. We have a facility here that is great for young and old, rich and poor alike. And we're going to lose it completely."

RUSH skateboard park employs 17 people plus coaches who train in skateboarding, BMX and scooters. They have been told they must close at the end of the month. They have nowhere to go and all the ramps and other infrastructure that have taken over eight years to build up will be lost.

The business did look at an alternative site at Stratford Park but after costly surveys said it did not prove viable.

The Council has said that demolition of the old industrial site must start in October to avoid further delays that would be caused if bats roost in the buildings.

The Grace Network social enterprise which includes The Long Table food project will also be evicted.

Council Leader Doina Cornell said: "We have listened to the views of many people, and we have always recognised the strength of feeling there is for RUSH and Grace Network, and we know about the huge benefits which both bring to the community. We won't give up on helping to find new permanent homes for them."

She added that the old factory buildings were 'well past their best' and that delaying vacation any further could put £2.7 million of external funding at risk for redeveloping the site.

Stroud District Council has already invested £1.1 million in preparatory work for the site.

The council has offered some of its own premises for some parts of the Grace Network operation. It runs Stroud Furniture Bank, The Long Table, Stroud District Kids' Stuff, Kick Off Stroud, The Bike Drop, Gloucestershire House Clearances and facilitates Stroud Foodbank.

In the run-up to Christmas, The Long Table made 3,000 meals to deliver to those in need, so they could share the same Christmas meal in their own homes.

The Long Table food project founder Tom Herbert told The Stroud News and Journal the whole redevelopment scheme was now out of date.

He said: "To me it's a 10-year-old plan that doesn't take into account how the world and the site has evolved, with RUSH skatepark included.

"It risks killing the social enterprises on site and I just don't understand why that's necessary.

"That space belongs to the community, it was bought by the council, and I think just replacing it with a carpark and some houses and a pleasure pond - the huge amount of work and the risk of it being derelict in order to build that - just seems like a really rubbish trade-off."

Jerry Norman told Punchline: "Eighty per cent of our customers come from outside of Gloucestershire.

"When I designed the skatepark I wanted a competition skate park, so the ramps are big, that's why we are able to hold the competitions here and there's not many large skate parks in the UK. The ones in Cardiff and Birmingham are half the size. The nearest comparable one is in Corby where most of Team GB train.

"During lockdown we allowed them to use our facilities to train."

Both gold medallist BMX Olympic champion Charlotte Worthington and men's BMX bronze medallist Declan Brooks trained at the Stroud park.

Matt Cottle, who works at RUSH, said: "It's great for kids to watch them and think I would like to aspire to that. But if they haven't got a facility, they're not going to be able to."

The park has held the scooter world championships three times, other national competitions and the Australian Pro Series - it was Sydney, Los Angeles and Stroud!

Jerry added: "If the council had a developer on board, ready to start, I would walk out quietly but they haven't. They will demolish the site and then it will be derelict for years to come. It doesn't make sense."

Thrupp ward councillor Beki Aldam is chairing a Zoom meeting for local residents tonight at 6pm. To join in visit bit.ly/3zHJSZs.

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