Despite enjoying a boom in running and athletics in the city of Salisbury, the running club at the heart of it (City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club), faces fears over its future after being locked out from the running track where it has built its success for the past 25 years.
The lock-out has come following a disagreement with South Wilts Grammar School for Girls about the introduction of new fees the school intends to charge the club for use of the track. Since 1 November, the school has become sole key-holder.
A City of Salisbury club spokesperson said: "Around a hundred children, some as young as nine and some of them disabled, were affected by the school’s action. The club’s team of volunteer coaches promptly rearranged the planned training sessions and held them instead in the adjacent leisure centre’s car-park, within the confines of a safety cordon the club put in place to salvage something for all the young club members present."
“This was a hugely disappointing episode and we believe the school’s action to have been ill-judged,” added club chairman Lee Ness.
“As recently as a month ago, the school wanted to start charging the club £50 an hour. Given the amount of time we use the track that would have bankrupted the club, and it bears no relation to the value of the facility.
“This sum was reduced in a draft agreement a few days ago to a far more reasonable £200 per month which we were on the verge of accepting. But suddenly, in what was to be a final agreement, the school then laid claim to ownership of our clubhouse – which we built and paid for more than 10 years ago.
“Now the school has changed its stance again and is demanding around £1,000 per month: that’s eight times higher than the club paid previously to Wiltshire Council to use the track. A voluntary organisation like ours simply cannot afford to pay that much, and the school knows that.”
The club has well over 400 members, aged 8-80, drawn from Salisbury and a wide radius beyond.
“We want to continue to build on our success and further grow our benefit to the community: that has been our outlook for a quarter of a century and remains unchanged. But all of it is clearly in jeopardy if the interests of our club members are not recognised,” Ness concluded.