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Burnham For Mayor

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Why I am backing the fight to save England's oldest gym

Despite a wonderful bid compiled by Jill Orrell, Chairman and leader of Leigh Gymnastics Club which would have secured the gym’s future and allowed today’s youngsters to continue to aspire in historical surroundings, the future of the gym is now in real doubt. I am concerned at the lack of lottery awards received in comparison to the national average; Leigh is in receipt of £8.5 million in comparison to national average of £33 million.

The story of the Marsh Gym has caught people's imagination. It has a great history - producing Olympic medal winners in the past - and would provide an inspiring home for today's young gymnasts at Leigh Gymnastics Club.

It is bitterly disappointing that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), having originally given such encouragement to the project, has now turned the bid down. This would have been a prime example of a 'living heritage' project, in a town that is often overlooked for heritage funding.

I intend to protest in the strongest possible terms about this. Leigh has not had its fair share from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Lottery relies on areas like Leigh for its income - with a high number of people who play it here - but then fails to give back.

Jill Orrell has done an outstanding job in working to raise awareness and protect this important part of Leigh's heritage. She will get my full support in keeping up the fight to save the Gym and I hope the town will rally round.

To start, I have asked HLF and Sport England to attend an urgent meeting to discuss a way forward for the Gym and Leigh Gymnastics Club."