‘Don’t lose this gem’: RUSH skatepark campaigner’s urgent plea

“Stroud will lose its gem”  – these are the words of campaigner Debbie Bird following the decision that RUSH Skatepark must quit Brimscombe.

Mrs Bird was speaking after a meeting of Stroud District Council‘s strategy and resources committee on Thursday (June 10), at which it was confirmed that RUSH Skatepark and other tenants must leave Brimscombe Port by the end of the month.

Organisations based at the site have been asked to vacate their premises by June 30, ahead of redevelopment works at the port.

This is a blow for campaigners, who were hoping lease extensions would be granted at Stroud District Council’s strategy and resources committee meeting on Thursday (June 10).

Mrs Bird said she was very disappointed by the decision and that the skatepark is a much needed resource for young people after a year of coronavirus restrictions.

However, members of the council voted to increase their support in finding permanent homes for the tenants.

Those affected by the decision include Rush Skatepark and the Grace Network operation, which runs Stroud Furniture Bank, The Long Table, Stroud District Kids’ Stuff, Kick Off Stroud, The Bike Drop, Gloucestershire House Clearances and facilitates Stroud Foodbank.

Council leader Doina Cornell said: “We have listened to the views of many people and we have always recognised the strength of feeling there is for Rush and Grace Network, and we know about the huge benefits which both bring to the community. We won’t give up on helping to find new permanent homes for them.

“The old factory buildings are well past their best and delaying vacation of the properties any further could put £2.776 million of external funding at risk for redeveloping the site.

“Stroud District Council has invested £1.1 million in the site as well, to help prepare it for redevelopment. We will step up our efforts to help find premises fit for Rush’s and Grace Network’s needs, and reiterate their calls for new homes.”

Deputy council leader Catherine Braun added: “We will work with Active Gloucestershire to provide Rush with additional support to help them find the premises they need.”

Resident Debbie Bird addressed Thursday’s council meeting, backing the case for an extension, and she also created a petition, which was signed by 3,606 supporters.

Commenting on SDC’s decision, She said: “I am very disappointed to say that the Strategy and Resources committee went ahead and confirmed that they want the Brimscombe Port businesses to cease trading June 30.

“Saving a last minute miracle, Stroud will lose its gem.

“Rush, in my opinion, has always been seriously under valued by most who haven’t experienced first hand it’s magical impact on our young people and the positive benefit for visitor numbers to Stroud.

“To my mind this action is quite simply wrong and we have representation that has lacked innovation or imagination, or any recognition of the impact of the pandemic.”

SDC said it has supported both Rush and the Grace Network to extend their stays and is expected to write off rent arrears for the skatepark, and Inside Football (which has closed already).

In 2018 the Strategy and Resources Committee agreed to grant a ground lease of land at Stratford Park to Rush, subject to detailed terms and planning permission being secured and Rush funding build costs.

This proposal was put on ice due to the prohibitive costs of the associated land surveys, which were believed to be in the region of £200,000.

The council said it has also offered some of its own premises for some parts of the Grace Network operation – it runs Stroud Furniture Bank, The Long Table, Stroud District Kids’ Stuff, Kick Off Stroud, The Bike Drop, Gloucestershire House Clearances and facilitates Stroud Foodbank.

For example, in the run-up to Christmas, the council made the kitchen at the council-owned pub The Ship Inn in Brimscombe available to The Long Table so it could make 3,000 meals for those in need, and the council said innovative temporary solutions like this could be offered, alongside additional support to help Grace Network in its search for new permanent premises.

Thrupp Ward Councillor, Beki Aldam said: “There’s no doubt that both Grace Network and Rush, as well as the other tenants on site, have made enormous contributions to our community. As their local councillor I’m committed to working with them so they can carry on their great work.”

The report which the committee considered can be viewed here: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/media/1485864/item-9-tenancies-at-brimscombe-port-rush-skatepark-and-grace-network.pdf

A recording of the meeting can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw01Yx9VOc8

To find out more about SDC’s vision for Brimscombe Port, visit: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/environment/brimscombe-port/brimscombe-port-popular-brief-a-summary-of-the-proposal-for-brimscombe-port

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