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Homes deal rescue could save my gym'

PUBLISHED: 16:40 14 January 2009 | UPDATED: 16:00 25 August 2010

HOPEFUL: Yvonne and Len Arnold.

HOPEFUL: Yvonne and Len Arnold.

A GYM facing closure due to financial strain could be saved by teaming up with a housing developer.

A GYM facing closure due to financial strain could be saved by teaming up with a housing developer.

Europa Gym, in Fraser Road, Erith, could be moved into a new £5 million gym in Maiden Lane, Crayford, according to the owner, Len Arnold.

Its clubs have produced four national champions in boxing, weightlifting and gymnastics but was told last summer that its rent would double in 2010.

Owner Mr Arnold has been locked in negotiations with Barratt Homes for seven months, thrashing out a deal that would see a plot given entirely to the club together with a £1.5 million grant.

Mr Arnold, who sold his home and moved into his Erith gym to cut costs, said: "If this plan gets accepted it could be a great new venture.

"We could run our own competitions and take on new disciplines like cheerleading and pole vaulting and possibly run play schemes. It would be a massive improvement.

"British Gymnastics have already offered to give us £500,000, and we wouldn't be a million miles away from the O2 when the Olympics arrive.

"It's possible we could even be used to deliver a legacy for sports like boxing and gymnastics."

Europa's floor space would increase by a third and Mr Arnold said his membership of more than 1,400 would at least double.

Olympic hopeful Zoe Smith, a 14-year-old weightlifter at Europa who shot to fame after setting 98 British records in 2008, said a new weights gym would be fantastic news.

She said: "If we lose the Europa Centre it would almost certainly end my dream of competing at the 2012 Games."

However, residents are unhappy with the other half of Barratt's deal - a four-storey block of 254 flats built on stilts facing directly on to Maiden Lane.

Crayford councillor Geraldene Lucia-Hennis said residents fear the influx of gym users and flat owners could bring gridlock to the area.

She added: "No one in Crayford really wants more flats in here. We're becoming a kind of transient town."

Barratt Homes, who also want to build flats on another derelict site in Greyhound Way, hailed the plan a 'scheme to save Bexley's Europa Gym'.

A Barratt spokesman said it would hold

a public exhibition to display its plans

at the beginning of February, then aim

to submit a planning application

before the end of the month.

jules.cooper@archant.co.uk

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