EXCLUSIVE: Axminster Sports Academy to relocate to Cloakham Lawn to protect and build sporting facilities in Axminster

  Posted: 04.06.21 at 18:08 by Philip Evans

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A major development plan for the Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre in Axminster will see LED Community Leisure relocate its health and fitness activities from its site at Axe Valley Academy to Cloakham.

Like all sporting complexes, Cloakham has been severely hit by COVID-19 and the move to bring the two centres together will provide financial security for sporting activities in Axminster.

The following statement from Ian Hall, chairman at Cloakham Lawn, was issued at 6pm this evening (Friday).

The statement said: "In February 2021 the freehold ownership of Cloakham Lawn Sports Centre in Axminster, a registered charity, was transferred from Bovis Homes to the charity. Previously, it was it was leased from Bovis.

"The charity - and consequently its trustees - have been carefully considering its future sustainability, particularly following a very difficult period during the coronavirus pandemic, which has had a significantly detrimental effect on both attendances and revenue.

"At a meeting of the club’s board on May 28, the trustees concluded that given the condition of the existing clubhouse and its future maintenance and repair liabilities, combined with declining membership numbers and receipts from the indoor bowling section, in particular, the club was unlikely to remain financially viable in its present format beyond the next two years.

The lay out of the new-look Cloakham Lawn

"There were only 90 remaining indoor bowling members before COVID hit and there has since been a reluctance to return, due in part because of the changing face of the pandemic and the uncertainties that this brings.

"The board, therefore, considered a proposal from LED Community Leisure to relocate its health and fitness activities from its Leisure Centre site at Axe Valley Academy to Cloakham, utilising most of the indoor bowling hall, with the club also expanding its social activities into the hall as well.

"LED’s fitness activities are no longer sustainable at the Leisure Centre site, and the move would immediately bring over 400 new members to the club, with the likelihood of more than 800 in due course.

"With LED paying a rent for its area, as well as the additional social revenue that would be generated for the club, this would have a transformational benefit to the financial sustainability of the complex.

"LED’s health referrals and work with health charities would also relocate to the club, although LED’s other community sports and leisure activities would continue to be provided at the Leisure Centre, and be increased to include short mat bowls.

"LED, as a Community Benefit Society and a charitable trust, would work in partnership with the charity to assist with fundraising to provide much needed improvements to the facilities on site.

"These will include bringing the multi-use games area (MUGA) back into use for netball, tennis and 5-a-side football, reinstating the skatepark along with some children’s play equipment, and potentially providing a new covered netball and tennis centre on an unused site within the Cloakham grounds.

"LED would also work with the charity and the two bowling sections to help provide both short-term and long-term solutions to ensure the future of both organisations, and would work with the other existing sports clubs to help them attract new members, to promote women’s and girls’ teams, and to promote and provide disability sports and activities.

"LED also brought forward long-term proposals for the replacement of the existing clubhouse with a new community sports and leisure hub, along with new changing rooms for the outdoor sports.

"A community sports and leisure hub supported by the two charities and the respective sports clubs would have a good chance of receiving grant funding, and be a viable alternative to a commercial build, which it was considered would be unaffordable in terms of both build cost and rent.

"The new clubhouse would also include a large bar/café and function room, along with a committee meeting room, to host community events such as weddings, celebrations and meetings, as well as providing additional revenue for the charity to help support the respective clubs and local activities.

"The club’s board of trustees voted to accept LED’s proposals in principle, and to work in partnership with the trust to develop its proposals, consulting with East Devon District Council, Sport England and the respective National Governing Bodies as appropriate."

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