Owner left ‘exhausted’ over Swaffham gym closure
A restrictive covenant dating back to the year 2000, means that a Swaffham gym will have to shut its doors.
Ash Gilbert, owner of the Everybody Health and Fitness gym on Whitsands Road, was unable to move to new premises due to the Breckland Council-imposed covenant.
With the lease of his current facility due to expire at the end of October, Mr Gilbert said he will be left with no gym facility for his 200 members to train.
Mr Gilbert claims the covenant was not mentioned throughout the process of being granted planning permission by Breckland in February.
He said the covenant was only mentioned at the point of paying stamp duty.
The same covenant has also prevented Karen Bromley’s application for a new private pool at 21 Turbine Way going ahead, having previously secured planning permission as well.
Mr Gilbert said: “I have lost a number of members and one full-time staff member to the uncertainty of the future and I am now physically, emotionally, and financially exhausted.
“The current facility is no longer suitable. This is due to planned relocation of the gym, hairdresser and beautician, thus leaving an unrealistic rent for just the gym at the current site.
“Breckland have ‘passed the buck’ many times, and although on numerous occasions have stated they would like to help, I have yet to witness this.
"The hairdresser and beautician who we have within the gym (who paid a sub-let rent), have found alternative locations to work from. Thus leaving a financial gap too big for the gym to fulfil on it’s own. This means it is not viable for us to remain where we are."
Speaking at a town council meeting earlier this month, Swaffham deputy mayor Keith Sandle said he wanted a full explanation for the gym’s closure including the wording of the covenant.
Mr Sandle said: “I just find it utterly mind-boggling and despicable that they[Breckland] have done this and charged them £500 for the privilege.
"It's just mind-boggling that a business trying to expand has been closed by Breckland. I need Ed [Colman, Breckland councillor for Swaffham] to take that through to Breckland to see exactly what is going on.
"Why did they not know about the covenant when they were granted planning permission?
"It's not because the business is bad or because they are doing a bad job. They were trying to move and Breckland shut them down which is not acceptable in my opinion."
A Breckland spokesman said: “The unit in question was sold by the council nearly 20 years ago and has since been in private ownership.
“The building has a covenant, which has been in place since it was sold by the council, which limits the use to industrial and office use.
“This is because the building is within a light industrial working area where the use of machinery, fork lifts and goods vehicles is common and these could present a potential danger.
“It is for the landlord and prospective tenants to discuss appropriate use of the building, ensuring proposed uses meet any legal obligations on the building and in this case the long-standing covenant and planning policy requirement.”