CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a gymnastics centre in Bracknell’s countryside have divided residents.

Since the News revealed proposals to create a space for Bracknell Gymnastics Club in Easthampstead, the council’s planning portal has been flooded with comments.

In the space of less than a week, more than 120 comments were submitted to Bracknell Forest Council (BFC).

IN FULL: Details of new gymnastics centre set for Bracknell countryside

Of these, 66 were lodged in support of the plans, with 58 in opposition to the proposals as of Tuesday, October 20.

Despite this, more than half of the comments left in support are from addresses outside of Bracknell Forest, including places such as Biggleswade in Bedforshire, Farnham in Surrey, and Horsham in West Sussex.

What do those in support of the plans say?

One resident, from Sarum in Bracknell, wrote: “This looks fantastic, right on my doorstep. My grandchildren would benefit a lot from this and it looks like a great use of that piece of scrubland. Fingers crossed it goes ahead.”

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Another, from Jaguar Lane, added: “Bracknell Gymnastics Club provide facilities for both recreational classes that are open to all as well as training elite level athletes who represent Great Britain.

“However, their current training facility within the leisure centre is too cramped and nor really fit for purpose.

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“A purpose-built facility would enable the elite athletes to train more safely with proper landing areas and higher ceilings as well as provide more scope for community classes, enabling the club to extend their provision to local schools and providing better provision for people with disabilities both to participate and spectate.”

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A resident from Stevenson Drive in Binfield also backed the plans. They said: “What a super idea for the community.

“We need this sort of facility to engage people to exercise more, get fit and sustain healthy lifestyles. It will provide jobs and bring growth during what is going to be a difficult stage for our community. I fully support this project.”

What do those against the plans say?

Of the 58 comments made against the proposal, it appears five were submitted from outside the borough.

Several of them were lodged by Staplehurst inhabitants, the residential area to the immediate east of the proposed site.

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One Staplehurst resident said: “Whilst I have nothing against a new gymnastics club I strongly disagree with the proposed location of it. Our green spaces are ever more valuable as time passes with the never decreasing building that is taking place.

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“This particular site is not only ancient woodland with protected trees, but it is also home to a large variety of wildlife which will all be destroyed as a result of this unnecessary build.”

Another resident, from Merlin Way in Bracknell, added: “The access routes are not good enough to sustain further vehicles, let alone coaches. Also being so close to the local crematorium makes it wholly unsuitable to those attending a service to have added stress of not being able to access the facility on a busy day.”

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A Roman Wood residents also lent their thoughts to the debate. They said: “Bracknell Sports and Leisure Centre is a fantastic resource within the borough and its full use should be actively encouraged. The building of a gymnasium and parking on a green field site does not appear to be justified when the Sports Centre has recently been refurbished and has extensive car parking available.”

What else do we know about the proposal?

The exact location for the new gym centre lies on land south-east of Downshire Golf Complex in Easthamptead, directly beneath South Road Allotments and to the immediate west of properties in Staplehurst.

It is an area subject to two preservation orders, meaning trees at the site are protected.

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It would include a team gym space and a floor exercise area on the lower ground floor, with the next floor up featuring a viewing gallery.

The land BGC is hoping to build on is classed as open space in the countryside, and notes about pre-application discussions with the council indicate planning chiefs at BFC deem the loss of this space as “unacceptable”.

What’s next?

No decision has been made by BFC yet, with time for comments still to come in.

However, given the volume of the comments submitted to the council, it is likely this application will be determined by the authority’s planning committee councillors rather than by officers behind-the-scenes.

The plan's full details can be viewed by entering planning reference 20/00573/FUL at