Gym owner condemns plans for council fitness centre (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Gym owner condemns plans for council fitness centre
A gym owner has accused the council of creating competition against small businesses after it confirmed plans to open a fitness facility of its own.
Titanium Gym, on the Raven Road Industrial Estate, off Chigwell Road in South Woodford, has had over 3,500 members sign up since it first opened in January 2009.
But co-owner Chris Soupashis said council proposals to open a gym at South Woodford Library in High Road, South Woodford, would make life for gyms such as his even harder.
Mr Soupashis, who has been asked to attend a meeting on January 27 to give his views on the proposals, said: "It is getting harder and harder to stay afloat because all the utility bills go up every year and we don’t get any special business rates.
“I called the council the other day to ask them what I was getting for the money I pay in business rates, and they just told me it was 'tough' and paying their fees was 'the law of the land'.
“Now I have been told that the council are opening up its own gym at South Woodford Library.
“Personally I am just wondering what they are doing to encourage small businesses. All we are doing is trying to survive and provide a service for local residents and they are coming in and creating competition for us."
The former head of security at a manufacturing firm said he faced difficulty before the gym opened in January 2009.
He said: “I found it really hard to open the gym in Redbridge at first. The area we wanted to open in only wanted industrial businesses.
“So we set up a petition and started knocking on doors. Residents were keen to have something like this in their area and I eventually convinced the council to let us open.”
Mr Soupashis believes larger chains which have opened in the area do not offer the same value for money.
He said: “At £27.50 a month, we are an affordable gym and large chains which are opening up do not offer the same personal service.
“We have lost customers because they are so cheap but have found that they have come back when they discovered they were not getting the same value for money.”
Cllr Gwyneth Deakins said: “Vision Redbridge have got a series of proposals and have been given certain targets by the council.
“Woodford Library is in a very dilapidated building. So from what I gather they are proposing to move the library services to James Hawkey Hall, and sell off the library.
“They will then use the money to put towards a new gym.
“Vision will be giving a presentation on January 27 at the Area 2 committee meeting and they were supposed to be having a more general public consultation about these ideas.
“I want to see what members of the public say about this. I do have some concerns about the council competing with local businesses.
“They are in a very good position because they already own the premises.”
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