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Rent hike is a huge weight on our shoulders

PUBLISHED: 16:27 27 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:12 25 August 2010

IN THE RED: Len and Yvonne Arnold

IN THE RED: Len and Yvonne Arnold

A COUPLE who sold their home to fund a community gym may be forced to close after their rent nearly doubled.

A COUPLE who sold their home to fund a community gym may be forced to close after their rent nearly doubled.

Len and Yvonne Arnold, who live in the Europa Gym, Fraser Road, Erith, could be forced to close down after their rent increased this month by £25,000, to £55,000-a-year.

The rent was hiked up after new land owners took over and conducted a review.

The 16-year-old gym, which has weightlifting, gymnastic, boxing, akido, judo and dance facilities, is used by 1,300 children from the area.

The couple who sold their house six years ago and moved into the gym said they would be 'gutted' if it closed as it is a "massive part of the community".

Mr Arnold, 53, a former amateur footballer said: "I am not a bleeding heart liberal but most problems with kids arise out of boredom. Kids can't play in the streets anymore.

"It will not cure all the ills but goes some way to it.

"The gym gets them associated with something. As they get older, a lot of the kids become good coaches.

"More of the pull is people being involved, not just getting to the Olympics."

But the gym can boast scores of Olympics hopefuls.

Zoe Smith and Jack Oliver, both 15, are the next weightlifting hopefuls for Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympics.

There are also teenagers at the gym who have their eye on the 2012 gymnastics and boxing squads.

But the gym does not qualify for lottery funding as their lease is not long enough and a spokesperson for Bexley council confirmed they were helping the couple look for another location in the borough.

Mr Arnold said: "95 per cent of our membership is youngsters.

"There is no formal type of funding for venues which are aimed at youngsters. In two years, our rent will increase by another £20,000 and that is when it is going to close, if nothing changes.

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