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War of words ramps up over skate park

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A war of words is brewing over the redevelopment of Brimscombe Port and the eviction of Rush, Stroud’s hugely popular skate park.

When Rush, at Unit 3, was forced to up sticks at the end of August, devastated owners Jerry and Michelle Norman found no apparent solution for a future venue – despite having turned the facility, launched in 2013, into a global beacon for skating events.

Rush was used by Olympic gold medallist Charlotte Worthington and hosted the Scootfest world championships in 2014, 2015 and 2019, while also being recognised as a vital resource amid the pandemic for wellbeing and mental health. But despite a four-year search for new premises, the business is now closed and remains homeless.

Rush’s exit paves the way for a transformation of the business park into space for 150 new homes, as well as a rebuild of the canal basin and a highways redesign – the plan having been unanimously backed by Stroud District Council’s planning committee earlier this year.

But Conservatives sitting on Stroud District Council have now labelled Council Leader Doina Cornell “cynical”, their leader Stephen Davies having called for an emergency meeting to request an urgent update on the Port’s development.

“In (the) meeting we learnt the Leader of Stroud District Council, Doina Cornell (Labour), when offered the opportunity, refused to apologise for serving eviction notices on Rush and the Grace Network,” said Davies, in a statement to Stroud Times. 

“She went on to say she felt let down by Rush and criticised the current facility. The Deputy Leader, Catherine Braun, (Green) referenced numerous ‘good’ conversations with both organisations,” he added, “but when questioned, admitted there were no specific outcomes. Although Grace Network have found an alternative location, they have incurred disruption and cost. Tragically, Rush have now lost any source of income and are still looking for an alternative location.”

Councillor Stephen Davies

Davies also claims Cllrs Cornell and Braun have “also confirmed that there are no immediate plans to connect the proposed basin at Brimscombe Port to the Canal network.”

As a result, he says, we face a “ridiculous situation of craning boats into the Basin (and out again when they require repair).” 

He added: “It was critical we called the emergency meeting as only now we know the reality behind the Labour-led Alliance’s cynical claims to care about Rush or the Grace Network.”

In response, Cllr Cornell told Stroud Times she was surprised to see Davies criticise decisions he had voted for, the plan being “to open up the canal network which will bring private investment into the area and the £40m project at the port which will benefit the whole district.”  

She added: “We have done all we can to help Rush, including letting them stay rent-free since 2018, and helping the Grace Network find new premises, and shall continue to do so.

Councillor Doina Cornell

“The criticism of putting boats in is puzzling, as Conservatives voted back in 2019 to support the design of the basin. The boats have been included in the plans thanks to the requirement of Stroud Valleys Canal Company, to bring in some income for the costs of looking after the canal and basin and maintain the long-term sustainability of the site.”

Meanwhile, Tom Herbert, who launched the Long Table under the umbrella of the Grace Network charity group, which neighbours Rush, has hit out at the £2.9m redevelopment scheme – claiming the council refused to include the Grace Network in the plans.

“It sounds like a terrible plan. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, if you pardon the pun,” he said.

The Long Table signed a new lease on Brimscombe Mill in August and is working with a team of volunteers to transform the site into its next location.

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