VIDEO: Shock over marching orders for gym club

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Distraught gymnasts are being forced to find a new home for their club after they were told it would be knocked down.

As part of Collegiate High School’s merger with Bispham High School and Performing Arts College, the former’s gym will be demolished.

Members of Blackpool Gymnastic Club at Collegiate High School.

Members of Blackpool Gymnastic Club at Collegiate High School.

This has left Blackpool Gymnastics Club, which has trained there for the past eight years, with nowhere for their hundreds of members and coaches to go.

Founder of the club, Janet Mankowska, 51, said: “They originally told us we would be fine and the gym would be kept, or if it was going to go it wouldn’t be until November 2014. That would’ve given us plenty of time to get something sorted, but they’ve given us eight weeks.

“It’s a scary thought because how do we find somewhere in that length of time?”

The club has identified premises on Poulton Industrial Estate as a potential new home. However, it has no changing rooms or toilets, and the club fear it could take longer than the eight week window forced upon them to revamp the facilities.

Mrs Mankowska added: “Our biggest problem at this moment in time is with eight weeks to go, we have found a facility.

“But it’s going to take at least that amount of time to get a change of use application approved and there’s no guarantee we will get that.

“Obviously, the parents are worried sick because the children train up to six times a week and it keeps them off the streets and keeps them healthy - all of the things parents are concerned about these days.”

The club, whose members range for age eight to 18, boasts a number of county level athletes and is sending some of them to an international gymnastic competition on the Isle of Man next month.

Samantha Mankowska, 27, head coach, added: “It was horrible when we found out.

“One gymnast told me she would be on drugs and in trouble with the police if she didn’t have this and a lot of the parents can’t afford to travel to competitions by themselves.”

Karen McCourt, 37, of Pierston Avenue, North Shore, has one child at the club.

She said: “When I told my daughter she was in floods of tears and she doesn’t know what she would do without gymnastics.

“When you watch the news it’s all about the Olympic legacy, but there’s 100 kids at Lancashire level and they are going to have nowhere to go.”

John Topping, headteacher at Collegiate High School, said a community gymnasium will be built as part of the changes.

He said: “It’s a fantastic facility, we all say that, but unfortunately the location of it means it has to be taken out with the rest of the old structure because it’s part of the old school.

“With all due respect we have thought about them and what we are looking to have in the building is a gym facility the community can use.

“I’m desperately sorry the gymnasium is being lost but with the new structure and design, it will be much better for the community.”

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