Sussex

Brighton Greens: Outdoor exercise groups 'should be charged'

People exercising stock image Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption People who use local parks for exercise said it was 'ridiculous'. Stock image

Groups of people exercising in public parks should be charged, because of the "damage" they are causing, councillors have proposed.

Phélim Mac Cafferty of Brighton and Hove City Council's Green Party said the groups "exploit open spaces".

Users said the idea was "ridiculous", adding thought should be given to the fitness businesses struggling during the pandemic.

The matter is to be discussed by the Labour-controlled council.

Image caption Phélim Mac Cafferty said this issue was more than a couple of people with a yoga mat

In a letter to the council Mr Cafferty and his Green Party colleague Hannah Clare said companies have driven vehicles on to Hove Lawns, and tied equipment to railings which have since collapsed.

Speaking to BBC South East Mr Cafferty said: "This isn't a trainer with a few people with a yoga mat and a skipping rope. This is two tonne trucks, free weights, flags. This is a business.

"Personal trainers wouldn't dream of not paying rent for the hire of a hall or gym. We're saying something similar needs to be considered here."

Image caption Rebecca and Anthony Dunn use the local park for their workout sessions

Rebecca and Anthony Dunn, who use local parks for workout sessions, agreed it was "easy pickings" to "go after exercisers" rather than those causing damage with barbecues, or litter.

Mr Dunn said: "I think it's absolutely ridiculous, we already pay council tax. This is a public space, and we are the public."

Personal trainer Gavin O'Brien said any damage had been "minor", and using equipment outdoors was largely a "short term measure".

"The gyms have been closed, this is a space they can use to get some income, in what has been a tough time for them."

Image caption Personal trainer Gavin O'Brien said it was just a temporary measure for most gyms

Charging businesses to use public spaces is something other districts, such as Maidstone Borough Council, already do.

Maidstone's leisure manager, Mike Evans said it ensured the parks are not "saturated" with exercise classes, when many people "want somewhere quiet or where they can enjoy nature".

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