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Disabled athlete's 'shock' at potential loss of running club's base

PUBLISHED: 11:42 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:06 29 August 2019

Disabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin Pitchers

Disabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin Pitchers

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A disabled athlete has expressed shock and anger after a running club was told it could lose its base.

Disabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin PitchersDisabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin Pitchers

Coltishall Jaguars, which has been based at Scottow Enterprise Park (SEP) since 2016, was given a month's notice on its unit's lease at the park on August 8.

The club said negotiations with Hethel Innovation Ltd (HIL), a Norfolk County Council-owned company, which manages the site, broke down after it offered a lease renewal at four times the current rate, and on the condition the club could no longer host races at the Scottow site.

The club is due to meet the park's management team for more discussions, but chairman Stephen Neal said no alternative sites for racing had been found.

He said a fully-booked championship race at the site on Sunday, September 22, could be their last there.

Disabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin PitchersDisabled athlete Martin Pitchers races with Coltishall Jaguars at Scottow Enterprise Park. Pictures: supplied by Martin Pitchers

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Disabled athlete Martin Pitchers, 53, a teaching assistant at Aylsham High School, said: "I have raced, in safety, at SEP in the very well-organised 10k races.

"At each event the organisation has improved and the Jaguars have made continuous adjustments to make the event as good as possible for disabled athletes. "

"Every runner is there to improve themselves, be it a personal best or completing the distance. This is worth way more, and not just financially, than squeezing as many pounds as possible from the SEP site."

The flat and traffic-free site is ideal for the club's junior runners and wheelchair racers. Photo: Coltishall JaguarsThe flat and traffic-free site is ideal for the club's junior runners and wheelchair racers. Photo: Coltishall Jaguars

Mr Pitchers, from Mill Reach, Buxton, said his daughter Freyja, who is 20 and has a club foot, also races there. He added: "This is the only sport that she has been able to take part in pain-free. It is unlikely that we would be able to take part in Jaguars' road races unless they were on flat, wide, traffic-free roads. "There are not many of those in north Norfolk."

HIL said there had been security complaints about unauthorised persons being on site, and other business owners being unable to access their units on race days, but Mr Neal said these had been addressed.

HIL denies the club is being evicted and says it is undergoing a lease review, with ongoing discussions over the rent.

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