Gym groups work up a sweat over 24 hour opening

News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.
News: Sheffield Telegraph online 24-hours a day.

TWO fitness chains have clashed over a proposed 24-hour operation in the south west of Sheffield.

Budget group Pure Gym have been given council permission to operate around the clock once it has taken over the Fitness First premises in the retail park off Archer Road in Millhouses.

But it was given the go-ahead despite a “strong objection” from Virgin Active, which has a club at Broadfield Park, off Broadfield Road.

“Attracting members of the public to the commercial park 24 hours a day will give rise to concerns over vandalism to neighbouring properties and unsocial behaviour,” said Virgin Active’s planning consultants. “The retail park is not overlooked and there is, therefore, no natural surveillance of the retail park during the early morning hours.”

However, the council rejected the argument.

“Overall, the presence of gym users throughout the night is likely to act more as a deterrent to vandalism and unsocial behaviour, than to encourage it, as suggested by Virgin Active,” says a council report.

Pure Gym promotes itself as the UK’s “leading affordable gym chain”, with no contracts and “low” monthly fees, open 24 hours a day.

Already it has a centre at Sheaf Gardens, near Granville Square, and now it is preparing to take over the Fitness First in the Archer Road retail park that is anchored by a Sainsbury’s superstore. Council approval was needed to extend the current opening hours of 7am to 11pm.

The owner of the building, Litton Properties, say the new investment will ensure continued use of the unit and protect a “significant” number of jobs.

A Fitness First customer welcomed the proposed change, saying: “It is unfortunate that financial pressures are forcing Fitness First to sell off some of its gyms, but the Pure Gym format would be a welcome format.”

Virgin Active pressed the council to reject the application, saying 24 hour opening was more appropriate for the city centre, where there was better public transport and surveillance. “If Sheffield City Council is minded to approve the application, Virgin Active would have to seriously consider submitting a planning application to allow 24-hour opening in order to ensure they do not lose competitive advantage.

“It is our considered opinion that approving this planning application will compromise Sheffield City Council’s position in resisting applications for other businesses applying to extend their opening hours, which we consider is likely if this planning application is approved.”

The council report says Pure operations are covered by CCTV externally and internally, and there are help points connected to an alarm centre.

“Whilst there are no on-site staff, the Pure Gym format is tried and tested and the applicant has confirmed that they have had ‘no reports from any of the local councils regarding out of hours noise complains or associated nuisances’.”