Merton College has angered Mansfield and Merton sports teams by announcing the permanent closure of its gym.Rowing teams at both colleges depend on the facilities for their training programmes, but Merton has taken the decision to close the room at the end of Trinity term for health and safety reasons. The decision to close the gym, which is based at the Merton Sports Ground, was taken after consultation with both the University’s Director of Sports and independent health and safety consultants. Tim Softley, the sub-Warden at Merton said, “Considering its legal liabilities, the College has no alternative but to close the facility on a short time-scale.” There are currently no definite plans to provide any alternative facilities for students.Merton JCR and MCR Presidents suggested a series of possible solutions, including the installation of CCTV cameras; additional telephone lines; and strengthening the sign-out arrangements for the use of the facility, to ensure no-one could use it alone. Merton JCR President, Danielle Quinn expressed her disappointment at the decision. “Our two main concerns at the moment are what will be done in the interim, as College hasn’t yet made a firm commitment in that respect, and whether or not they’ll allow Mansfield to use the new facility.“We were surprised that College hadn’t planned to allow Mansfield to use it, considering the level of mutual dependence between the Colleges in terms of fielding teams.” The two Colleges often combine forces to produce joint sports teams.Mansfield JCR President, James Naish, said, “The manner in which the gym was shut is particularly disturbing. If it were not for the Merton JCR President, the weights room would have been shut without any consultation with Mansfield. It hasn’t exactly been the best way of going around things.” He added, “The College Bursar is looking into the possibility of group membership at Iffley Road University Gyms and expanding gym provision at the Boat Club. I’m confident that a solution can be found – it is only to be hoped that the closure of joint facilities will not be to the detriment of team spirit in future Merton-Mansfield sports teams.”Dan Harvey, a Mansfield rower and one of the many students to be affected by the closure, said, “Closing one of the key training facilities available to the College is bound to have a detrimental impact on Mansfield sport. It is used frequently by many of the College’s sports teams, all of whom will suffer as a result of this action.” Softley insisted that Merton was doing all it could to find an alternative facility. He said, “The College is actively and urgently considering plans for a modern fitness room on the main College site, but in view of the need for formal agreements and permissions cannot guarantee to open such a facility within the present calendar year. ” Merton is currently considering the development of a new fitness facility in Rose Lane although the proposed project, should it go ahead, would not be ready for Michaelmas term.