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“If they close the Fort for sports, it’ll be the biggest crime Jersey’s committed"

“If they close the Fort for sports, it’ll be the biggest crime Jersey’s committed

Thursday 18 February 2021

“If they close the Fort for sports, it’ll be the biggest crime Jersey’s committed"

Thursday 18 February 2021


Sports clubs facing removal from their Fort Regent base are urging the Government to make the facility a world-class sports venue once again, or invest in new permanent facilities for their future.

It comes after the Government announced this week that they will soon be contacted about finding new homes, with UK firm KKP tasked with running a consultation on the future of one of the island's main sports facilities.

While some clubs have questioned the need to move at all, Assistant Minister with responsibility for sport, Deputy Hugh Raymond, said a discussion had to take place because the Fort building "is ageing and needs repair and redevelopment."

Though Julia Falle, who runs Regent Gymnastics, is staying “positive that [the club] will be looked after", she emphasised the need for “stability”, with clear dates for when things are moving forward so clubs can plan.

Fort_Regent_Pic.jpg

Pictured: A consultation has been launched into the rehoming of the Fort's sports clubs.

The club is one of the Fort’s mainstays, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, having been set up by Julia’s father in 1981. 

Since then, it has expanded into teaching seven-days-a-week from 09:00 until 21:00, with a wide range of activities including pre-school gymnastics at its Little Monkeys classes, special education programme, adult gymnastics, trampolining, as well as wider community efforts.

When the club was based in Queen’s Hall, it would often have to make way for events like ice rinks and concerts, being moved into smaller areas that were more difficult to maintain with the large influx of members they have, which number up to 500 when in full flow. 

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Pictured: Julia Falle of Regent Gymnastics spoke about the need for a large permanent space to maintain their classes.

Though they are now situated in the Gloucester Hall area following the establishment of the Vaccination Centre, and only teaching 10 children at a time due to current covid restrictions, Julia wants to see a fixed location for the club as part of future plans when the club can resume their full capacity.

“We do get moved around a lot, so we need some sort of stability,” she said, adding that “we need minimum size of 25x30 metres area.”

“We just need a building, a purpose-built area that we can use permanently so we’re not going to be moved every few months...we could grow and grow - there’s so much more we could offer to the community if we had a permanent facility.”

Roy MacDonald, who has been teaching Kenpo Karate at the Fort for over 30 years, is hoping that the upcoming consultation could lead to the Government keeping sports in the Fort, and investing in improving facilities rather than moving clubs out.

Roy McDonald Kenpo

Pictured: Roy MacDonald has been teaching karate at the Fort for over 30 years now.

“I know the building is getting older, needing some work done, but we’re hoping to keep our club premises,” he explained.

"Issue number one: is it possible for the Government to put a bit of money in… to sort the leaks, to sort out a few of the sell-by date problems they have, which might take a couple of million? We’re hoping they might be able to do that."

Emphasising the perks of being at the Fort in comparison to using venues like school and parish halls, he said: “We’ve got our own premises here - we can put mirrors up, placards, we can put boards up, have marks, whereas if you’re in a gymnasium, you’ve got to get out at at a certain time, and you can’t do anything else.”

However, he acknowledged that moving out may well be on the cards, adding that he hopes there will be an appropriate transition period if so.

Mr MacDonald emphasised the importance of suitably housing the clubs in the interim and not just leaving them to share local halls. “To say to 85 of our kids that you can’t train anymore, that would be drastic - they’re going through the belt ranks, it’s like a whole way of life to them," he said.

He suggested the best way forward if the Fort could not be maintained would be to “build another complex somewhere to accommodate our sports, and then we can move out”, but added that “moving out prior to that would be disastrous.” 

Ray Molloy, founder of Tai Chi Qigong Jersey, expressed his frustration at the idea of sports being removed from the Fort, feeling moving clubs out would be a mistake that squanders opportunity. 

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Pictured: Ray Molloy, who runs Tai Chi Qigong Jersey, feels that getting rid of the sport would be a massive mistake, and the current facilities should be invested in.

“If they close the Fort for sports, it’ll be the biggest crime Jersey’s ever committed," he told Express.

Having seen championships come to the Fort since 2000, with competitors from over 15 countries attending, Ray reminisced about how the site was once revered by visitors.

Explaining why he doesn’t want to see a return to school and parish halls for sports, he said that the ability to have their own facilities led to greater security and safety. 

“When we used to train in schools there were more accidents. Whereas at the Fort, we’ve got proper mats – with the mats down, there’s less chance of accidents,” he said. 

He further voiced his concerns about potential attempts to move the Fort’s sporting clubs to Les Quennevais' facilities, as “they’re not big enough.”

Facilities_Fort_Gloucester_Hall.jpg

Pictured: The facilities needed for a club like Regent Gymnastics when operating normally would need to be large-scale.

He added that he didn’t see where else had the same direct parking the Fort had either.

Talking about why the Government should put its investment into sports facilities at the Fort, he said of its potential: “Spend money on it and the people will come back...it could be the sports centre of the world.”

The Government has previously said that sports facilities would be unlikely to feature in future plans for the Fort, though the Economic and International Affairs Scrutiny Panel expressed their fears in December that there is still “a high degree of uncertainty over the future of the project” as it would need full political backing.

In October, Express revealed that ProduceUK Ltd - a company that has brought 'Spanish Steps', a giant interactive boombox, an LED light Maze and a 'Slideatron' to cities across the UK - had been handed a £28,000 contract to inject life into Fort Regent ahead of a bigger redevelopment.

Meanwhile, In Partnership With Ltd was awarded a contract of £215,000 to advise on plans for the long-term, involving up to £26m investment from Government.

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Comments

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Posted by Scott Mills on
If the Fort closes, it'll be a shame and disgrace from the States. If they'd have sorted it years ago, with drips of money and work, then it wouldn't have been in the state it's in now. Clean slate, sort the problems out and perhaps remodel the interior.
Posted by John Henwood on
There are plenty of good places to which activities can be moved. For a start, schools with gym facilities - and there are plenty of them - are very largely unused outside school hours during weekdays and all day at weekends. They are generally well equipped, well lit, warm and dry - unlike much of Fort Regent.
Posted by Private Individual on
I am sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Henwood but we have heard all of this nonsense before.

This is nothing more than the continuation of Senator mike Vibert's announcement in 2002 that all sport was going to be removed from the fort with the real estate handed to private developers for nothing.

The pandemic is being used as the lever to stop all activities at the fort whilst removing the clubs and activities out. As we have seen countless times before there is no guarantee that facilities will be provided for the people who presently use the fort.

It is a unique community venue that is irreplaceable.

This announcement has been hidden on the back of a page in the JEP so no one will notice. This is the type of underhanded tactics that our government is using everywhere. They are selling public assets to all and sundry with no accountability.

Fort Regent is 22 acres of prime real estate in the middle of St Helier, something a developer would love to get their hands on.
Posted by Scott Mills on
John Henwood, have you tried booking a school hall after school, or at weekend, half terms. These clubs can't simply up and move to a school hall. They need permanent, suitable, and tailored places to practise their sports. Putting down a few school sports mats will not cut it for gymnastics only if they doing roly poly's. PS, the participants stay warm by doing their sports! PI you hit the nail on the head, they'll do what they did with Old Girls College, give it away for a fart in the wind to their mates, or companies who they have shares in.
Posted by Sheila Young on
It is disgraceful that the local community may lose the sporting facilities on offer at Fort Regent. At a time when we are all being told about the importance of exercise for our physical and mental wellbeing this should not be allowed. Many sports clubs are already having trouble finding suitable venues and nowhere can offer the space or facilities available at the fort, even if it is in a state of disrepair. Using schools sports facilities is not a viable option as even if they are available they will never be able to offer the space or equipment available at the fort. Fort Regent should be redeveloped as a sports venue with much needed indoor play areas for young children to use particularly in the winter months or when the weather is bad, as it there are very limited play/entertainment venues available for young children at present.
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