SCORES of young athletes, some of them disabled, were forced to train in a car park when the city’s athletics club was suddenly refused entry to the track it has used for 25 years.

As the Journal reported last week, members of City of Salisbury Athletics and Running Club arrived at the track at South Wilts Grammar School on Thursday evening, to find the school had locked them out.

They returned on Tuesday with placards and banners but were again unable to get in.

The debacle follows the handover by Wiltshire Council of the track, sited alongside Five Rivers leisure centre, to the school.

The club claims it has been told it must either concede ownership of its clubhouse – built and paid for by its own members - to the school, or face paying £1,000 a month - eight times as much as previously - for use of the track.

South Wilts School says it now owns the clubhouse, which is on school land, and cannot afford to subsidise the club.

Wiltshire says it is a matter “for the school and anyone wishing to hire the facilities”.

The athletes have been told they will not be allowed back until a financial agreement is reached, putting a number of events at risk, including the Salisbury 10-mile road race.

It was on November 1 that Wiltshire gave ownership of the track to the school.

The club said it was kept out of the loop while the handover was discussed.

“They refused to allow us to be involved,” chairman Lee Ness said in a letter to members.

“Amidst the biggest boom in running and athletics the city of Salisbury has ever seen, the club at the heart of it has been locked out from the track where it has built its success.”

South Wilts head teacher Michele Chilcott said the school did not wish to make a profit out of the track but it needed to break even, and the club was getting a better rate than other hirers.

Wiltshire councillor Ricky Rogers said public money, including £25,000 from the council’s Salisbury Area Board, had been set aside to refurbish the track on the understanding that the club would manage it and more people would have access.

He said: “Grass roots sport locked out of a publicly funded facility. Is this really Wiltshire’s contribution to the Olympic legacy?”

Cllr Rogers said the club was effectively being charged for someone to unlock the gate, as members did not use any of the school’s facilities such as showers, toilets or changing rooms.

“It’s ludicrous,” he said.

Veteran coach Dave Amey said he had never known anything like the “absolutely dreadful” situation in his 60 years with the club.

“It’s a nightmare scenario,” he said. “We are not a rich club but we do an awful lot for the community.

“We feel so helpless. I hope common sense will prevail.”

When asked if it had considered the club’s future before giving up responsibility for the track, Wiltshire Council declined to answer.

But a spokesman said: “Wiltshire Council has provided advice and support to both the school and the club in order to secure funding for the long-term sustainability of the track and encourage maximum use of the facility for the community.”