Skatepark’s future in jeopardy following Damien Hirst’s land bid

Artist Damien Hirst has unwittingly painted Stroud’s Rush Skate Park into a corner, with the business’s unsuccessful search for a new home now causing serious concerns for its future.

Owners of Rush Skatepark are facing a crisis after their efforts to land a new home for the Stroud skating venue continues to fall flat.

In a saga now years in the running, the latest twist came when the owners thought they were close to finally securing a new site at Lightpill Industrial Estate, only to be pipped at the post by renowned artist Damien Hirst.

Previous plans to move to Stroud’s Stratford Park with the district council’s help and blessing were dropped after the community interest company spent £30,000 on planning, only to learn it faced a further £120,000 bill and a programme of works potentially lasting four years.

And then the most recent bad news, which has thrown it into crisis.

‘We thought we had secured the site at Lightpill, but then Damien Hirst came in and took it instead. We only found out a week last Friday,’ said Jerry Norman, who runs the skatepark with his wife Michelle.

The award-winning skatepark and café currently employs 20 staff and helped breathe new life into the near-derelict Brimscombe Port when it opened in 2013.

It has hosted international competitions attracting thousands of visitors from around the world – and even the local enterprise partnership GFirst LEP’s annual review in 2017.

Professional riders from the now Olympic sports of skateboarding and BMX have also used the venue and it hosted the world championships in 2014, 2015 and 2019.

The site was originally taken on with both the Normans and Stroud District Council agreeing on a contract that included a break-clause should either party decide to act upon it.

Plans by the district council to redevelop the Brimscombe Port site have forced the need for a change of address.

But rising rents across Gloucestershire with warehouse space high in-demand as our shopping habits are changing, a need to secure a site with parking and safe access – and head-room of up to seven metres high – is making the county-wide search frustrating.

The couple’s lease runs out at the end of June 2021 – and despite spending the past four years searching in and around Gloucestershire and viewing 15 potential sites to find a new base, they are yet to secure a site.

With the pressure now on to move out Rush and other tenants on the site, which includes near-neighbours The Grace Network, have come together to launch a petition to try to win more time.

The Brimscombe Port Community Interest Businesses is pushing for a lease extension until January 2022. It is understood the organisations and businesses on the site currently support 69 jobs.

By Andrew Merrell

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© SoGlos
Tuesday 25 May 2021

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