City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club (CoSARC) is trying to secure its future after a contract dispute that has seen it locked out of the track it has been using for 25 years.
Wiltshire Council handed over ownership of the facility to the neighbouring South Wilts Grammar School for Girls (SWGS) at the start of November.
The club has started a petition and says it has been “held to ransome” by the school, which wants to increase rent and keep hold of rights over property.
Failure to agree a deal has seen athletes unable to access the track and training in a nearby car park.
In a facebook post, the club says it had no concerns about the new owners, until it became clear that they wanted to up the rent from £100 to £3,000 a month.
It appeared that all had been resolved after a meeting in which South Wilts Grammar School agreed to only double the rent to £200 a month. CoSARC told Vinco that this would involve handing over all of its income after expenses from the track had been paid for.
But a sticking point came when the school produced a contract asking the club to sign away rights to land and property including the clubhouse it bought and has had access to for the last two decades.
Having not signed the deal, volunteer coaches were told shortly before a session that they couldn’t use the facilities. Quick thinking led to a section of a local leisure centure car park being cordoned off, which has become the athletes’ new temporary training ground.
The club told Vinco that the “running track is in darkness, the clubhouse is completely inaccessible, we have kit and trophies locked away and we cannot get at them.”
In response, SWGS says it has put in large amounts of money into maintaining the track but has “never received any income” from it. A statement published on its website says there is a shared agreement that the club owns all land and buildings on the site, albeit this “no longer has legal status” since it changed from being a foundation school to an academy in 2011. Concern centres around use of the track being allowed without a formal agreement in place between all parties.
But there is a further complication. This would only be an “interim agreement” because there are plans to refurbish the track which would likely be closed while work is completed. A grant from Sport England has been secured, but there is a deadline by which the funding must be used.
School bosses say “time and resources” have been spent on making sure this is resolved for the benefit of people in Salisbury, expressing their commitment to “ensuring that this communal sports facility continues to be available long into the future, as long as funds permit.”
The statement criticises the club for revising its business plan for the redevelopment, claiming this has delayed the process. In return, CoSARC has expressed disappointment at not being part of all discussions about the track.