A LEISURE club, home to rising squash stars, has closed unexpectedly.

Stuart and Cindy Parke, owners of Ardleigh Hall Leisure Club, made the announcement to about ten staff on Saturday.

Tendring Council had been in contact with the venue, in Dedham Road, Ardleigh, which has a health spa, gym and squash and tennis courts and about 350 members, in relation to unpaid business rates.

The closure has left the venue’s squash club temporarily homeless.

Lauren Selby, an England coach, has been teaching about 100 youngsters at Ardleigh Squash Club, based at Ardleigh Hall.

She received a call from a staff member on Saturday morning telling her to go to the premises for an urgent meeting.

She said: “The owners had put a notice on the board saying the club had shut and then told staff they were shutting at that very moment.

“The staff were absolutely devastated. They have got mortgages to pay, they have lost their jobs and they might not get last month’s wages either.”

Miss Selby, 30, said the leisure club employed about ten people comprising of bar staff, cleaners and class instructors.

Lee Horton, media officer for Essex Junior Squash, said players were stunned by the news, describing the venue as one of the county’s oldest and most famous clubs.

He said two of the country’s leading young coaches, Miss Selby and Lee Drew, had spearheaded an amazing revival of squash in Essex at the club. Mr Horton said: “Ardleigh Hall is steeped in squash history having been the starting point and home to a number of players that have achieved top ten rankings in the world, including Del Harris, Chris Walker and Tony Hands.

“Lauren and Lee have helped make the club a hotbed for young talent.”

Mr Horton said Ardleigh Squash Club is in advanced talks with Colchester Garrison to use the six courts at its gym.

A Tendring Council spokesman said Ardleigh Hall Leisure Limited had been sent a notice by its business rates department last week asking them to pay.

He said: “We have had no contact back and understand they are no longer trading.”

The Gazette emailed, phoned and visited Ardleigh Hall Leisure Club yesterday, but its owners did not respond.