Objection to the closure of Caversham Health & Fitness Club for the development of a Cinema complex at St Martin’s precinct, Caversham.

The proposed redevelopment of the centre of Caversham will deprive the local community of its only independent sports and fitness venue and one of the most successful and well-regarded clubs in Reading. Caversham Health and Fitness Club operates from 51 Church Street above Waitrose. For 35 years, as well as providing gym and fitness classes to the people of Caversham, it has been home to a squash club used by a large membership.

Over this period the club has become one of the region’s premier centres for a sport that provides superb exercise and health benefits and in which Britain excels (perhaps because it’s so well suited to our climate!).

Caversham’s men’s team has won the Berkshire county championship fourteen times and its leading player, Rick Weatherall, has taken the individual title on twelve occasions. The heritage of the club is matched by the affection that its members, of all abilities and all ages, have for it. To make matters worse for them, they are losing their club just as alternatives also vanish; the plans for redeveloping Rivermead Leisure Centre include demolishing its squash courts, too. In place of an independent club that provides exercise, health and a social network for many in the heart of Caversham there will be a three-screen cinema. Given the number of screens available within a few miles of Caversham already and the absence of local demand for a cinema before one appeared in the developer’s plans, this is an unnecessary (but doubtless money-spinning) imposition.

At a time when sports facilities for all have never been more important and when we should be doing everything we can to preserve the local character of our town centres, the plan submitted by developer Hermes represents the wrong choice.

We have therefore objected to the planning application currently before Reading Borough Council, asking that the location of Caversham Health and Fitness continue to be used as an independent, thriving squash and fitness club for the benefit of the community.

Peter Mann and majority of members of Caversham Health & Fitness