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31 Jul 2020

Gyms on the high street – it's a go!
BY Tom Walker

The new rules will mean commercial and retail properties in town centres can be quickly repurposed as leisure facilities

The new rules will mean commercial and retail properties in town centres can be quickly repurposed as leisure facilities
photo: Shutterstock.com/fotosparrow

Gyms will be free to open on high streets across England from September 1, following changes to legislation, following intense lobbying from industry body, ukactive, supported by the industry.

HCM highlighted the issue earlier this month.

The new laws are designed to revitalise town centres and will create a huge opportunity for gym operators to extend operations into areas of higher visibility and to build more consumer-centric brands.

The changes relate to the Use Classes Order regulation, which has obstructed gyms and leisure facilities from opening. The new rules will mean commercial and retail properties can be quickly repurposed to help revive high streets.

A Commercial, Business and Service E Use Class will be created, which will enable health clubs, gyms, restaurants and a wide range of other leisure operators move into retail units without requiring a planning application or local authority approval.

In addition to allowing gyms to open, a new ‘Local Community’ F2 Use Class will also be created, which will recognise the central role that outdoor sports and swimming pools play in servicing the essential needs of local communities.

ukactive had argued for changes to allow the physical activity sector to revitalise ailing high streets.

“We welcome these reforms as a positive step for the long-term success of our sector, despite the challenging climate we face today," said Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive.

“This amendment to the Use Classes Order marks a victory for ukactive and its members in our ambition for physical activity to play a more central role in our nation’s physical, mental and economic health.

“To date, our sector’s potential to regenerate town centres and improve community health has been stifled by archaic town planning regulations which made it difficult for gyms and leisure providers to open new facilities on the high street."

Announced by Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, the reforms are designed to alleviate some of the restrictive aspects of the 1987 Use Classes Order, which made it increasingly difficult for high streets and town centres to diversify their offers and adapt to changing consumer demands.



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