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Pensioners fight to prevent sale of Gladiators social site
Buy this photo » Christine Burden fears her Sweet Memories club for the elderly will have to close if the Gladiators site in Iffley Road is sold. OX62033
SELLING an East Oxford social club building would have a devastating effect on pensioners, one the city’s biggest elderly groups has warned.
The Gladiator Sports and Social Club site in Iffley Road is being put up for sale.
And if it closes, the Sweet Memories Club is likely to close – in a move that elderly members say will be heartbreaking.
The Gladiator site, including the club building and two flats, has been put on the market by owners The Gladiator Trust – a Christian foundation – as a development opportunity for £1.25m.
The trust says it could do better Christian work in the community by selling the site, rather than trying to maintain its decaying buildings.
Sweet Memories organiser Christine Burden said members of her club cried when they saw the ‘for sale’ sign was put up.
She said: “What are our members going to do? It is their lifeline. It is just breaking my heart. If there is no club, what happens to them? They just sit at home lonely and forgotten.”
Mrs Burden started the Thursday morning coffee club 13 years ago and was made a MBE in 2011 for her work.
The 67-year-old, of Meadow Lane, Donnington, said there were now about 80 regular members of the club, which offers activities such as bingo, raffles, and day trips out.
But she said she could not carry on the work elsewhere if the building was sold, adding: “It would never be the same.”
Old Marston resident James Topham, 90, said he and his wife Anne, 91, would miss the club. He said: “If it closes, it will be devastating for older people.”
Muriel Stevens, 84, who lives alone in Poplar Road, Botley, said: “It is my life going down there. I look forward to it.”
The Gladiator club is also the home of Aunt Sally team The Gladiators.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith said he is “very concerned” at the plans. He told the Oxford Mail: “It would be totally unacceptable to lose this important community facility.”
Charity Commission figures show The Gladiator Trust made £48,509 and spent £17,677 in the year ending September last year.
It lists the trustees as John Joyce, Derek Moores, Hazel Pinfold, Kenneth Hounslow, Michael Wells, Roger Sammons and Anthony Swan.
Mr Wells, the trust chairman, said the charity handed out grants to Christian causes and its work could be better done “without the burdensome worry of decaying premises”.
He added: “Whether they (the trust) do that through running the premises or a pot of money is their business.”
He refused to say if the trust owned any other buildings.
The Gladiator Club – which is not connected with the Gladiator Trust but uses the site – is also fighting the sale.
Committee chairman Brian Richards said the club had applied to Oxford City Council to register the building as an asset of community value, but declined to comment further.
If granted, the committee would have six months to bid for the site before it could be sold off for development.
City council spokesman Chris Lee said a decision on the application would be made by October 28.
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