Published: 15:34, 28 October 2021
| Updated: 16:42, 28 October 2021
A boxing club is at "real danger of closing" if a new home cannot be found within the next two months, the club's owner has warned.
Maidstone Amateur Boxing Club, which has around 200 members and is based in Park Wood, was told last October it would have to find a new site, because Heather House will be replaced with a new community centre.
There is no room at the community centre for the group, founded in 2017, and after months of searching, a suitable replacement still has not been found, with the group leaving at the end of December.
Owner Joe Smith said: "We are one of the most popular clubs in Kent. There is nothing really in the area, it keeps the kids off the street and doing something healthy."
Speaking about their situation, he said: "We are in real danger of closing at this moment in time."
The club currently uses Reed Hall, which is attached to Heather House.
In May, Mr Smith said he wanted Maidstone Borough Council (MBC), which owns Heather House, to do more to help find a replacement, adding: "Sometimes I don't think the council realises what we do for the community."
Now, he says the situation has not improved, and feels the council are "looking after" other sports clubs which will move into the centre, but not his group.
He added: "They are not really helping us at all."
Some 200 members train at the club, which is run by volunteers, with three classes a week for kids and three for adults.
Following the publication of the club's plight in the spring, The Hillier Trust, which supports organisations and activities, got in touch, offering financial aide.
Things looked promising, but one of the most-promising contenders turned out to be unsuitable, as it was a listed building and there were concerns about bothering the home next door.
The future of Heather House has been uncertain since November 2017, when council officers ordered its permanent closure.
A campaign led to MBC carrying out emergency repairs enabled the hall to be reopened.
However, an assessment found that it would cost £765,000 to keep Heather House going for another 15 years, with problems found in the roof, external cladding and doors.
Initial proposals were drawn up for a development of 36 new homes on the nearby Pavilion Building site, with the proceeds from this to be put towards refurbishments and extensions to Heather House.
But, in October last year, councillors opted instead for a new community centre be constructed on the Heather House site and 12 three-bedroom houses built on the Pavilion Building land.
"The more features it has the more it's going to cost..."
Speaking in May, Daniel Rose, Park Wood councillor, said he was trying to help the club and wanted them it to stay in the ward.
He said the reason for the club not being included in the new community centre plans came down to the cost of adding a space for the boxing club.
He added: "The more features it has the more it's going to cost. It has been a very large hurdle to find the funds for what it is now, which is pretty much a community centre which has a lot of value for the community.
"But to have a building on the side, a sports facility for the boxing club, it would be an added cost. If you aim too high it would risk having nothing at the end."
An MBC spokesman said: "The Heather House building will provide facilities suitable for a variety of sports club uses, however, we understand that the boxing club is looking for their own dedicated space.
"With that in mind, MBC has been working with Maidstone Amateur Boxing Club to help them find alternative premises.
"Unfortunately those that have been suggested so far have not been suitable but we will continue to try and help moving forward."