Holmes Chapel Parish Council look to save AP Club
Holmes Chapel Parish Council is setting up a working party, comprising representatives from the council itself, the Holmes Chapel Partnership and other interested local organisations, to consider the possibility of the community acquiring and operating the AP Club site including the associated playing fields. The working party will seek expert professional help to undertake this task and will seek a pre-feasibility grant from the Community Right to Bid scheme to finance the initial study. The working party will report back with its recommendations within three months.
The current owners of the site, the French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Aventis, want to dispose of it. They have issued notice to quit to all the users of the club and announced that the site will close in December and will be made secure. This has already led to the local squash club having to leave the village. The rugby club will have to leave by the end of this season. Discussions have been held with the owners in an attempt to keep the site open whilst any developments are being considered, but such discussions have not been successful.
The parish council are keen to preserve the site and its facilities for the local community. Following its closure in December there is a real danger that the site will become derelict whilst its future is sorted out. Developers have already expressed an interest in using the site for even more housing. The Parish Council has sought guidance regarding planning options from Cheshire East Council and Sport England. Both have indicated that they would object to development of the site for other than sporting and recreational purposes unless any developer provided equal or better facilities in the village. These restrictions could well reduce the realisable value of the site below that expected by the owners.
The parish council has also applied to Cheshire East Council for the site to be registered as an asset of community value. If successful this means that the community would have six months from the date that Sanofi put it up for sale to submit a bid for the site. There are no guarantees that such a bid would be accepted but at least Sanofi cannot sell the site without the community having a chance to preserve it.
Any local residents and organisations that would like to help with this campaign are urged to contact the parish council.
The AP Club in the community
The AP Club in Holmes Chapel Cheshire has been in existence in its present form since 1975 as a sports and social club for the local community, both within Holmes Chapel itself and the neighbouring parishes, and the workforce of Sanofi Aventis Pharma Ltd and its predecessor companies. It includes a large outdoor sports field with associated changing facilities, a fitness gym, a badminton court, a squash court, a physiotherapy clinic, a large function hall with stage, a bar and associated kitchen and several smaller function rooms. It has parking facilities and a floodlit outdoor training area.
The Club provides a health, leisure and fitness facility for the community. It has the only squash court in Holmes Chapel and the only dedicated badminton court in the village. It is home to a rugby union club which uses the large outdoor playing area and associated changing facilities. The pitch provides the only large playing field in the village suitable for rugby and football. The bar, lounge area and function rooms are used by many local organisations for indoor activities, social and charity functions. These indoor spaces are used by a variety of groups from toddler exercise classes to adult fitness classes. It formerly provided a bowling green and tennis courts but these have fallen into disrepair. It has over 400 members.
Holmes Chapel has a population of over 6,000 which over the next five years, if current development plans come to fruition, could increase by 20%. The AP Club site could be developed into a full community centre, offering not only the current sporting and recreational facilities, but also such activities as a community cinema, a performance and display space for local cultural societies; as well as a venue for local events both community and private. This would not only enhance the wellbeing of the community but would also provide accessible local facilities for which residents currently have to travel to other towns. By increasing the opportunities for all age groups to participate in community activities it would develop a stronger community.
The next steps
The working party would produce a report which would enable the community to decide whether or not to proceed to a full feasibility and planning study prior to any bid. The report will:
- Provide an outline assessment of the support within the community for the acquisition of the Club, including an assessment of the likely use of any facilities by local organisations and businesses;
- Take into account the impact on, and any possible cooperation with, other existing sporting and recreational providers in the Village, such as the Victoria Club and HCCS;
- Outline of the facilities to be provided at any proposed community centre;
- Estimate of the potential cost of purchasing the Club taking into account possible planning restrictions;
- Understand the current physical condition of the Club and determine outline refurbishment costs;
- Estimate of the costs of running the Club and of potential income.