A GYM which stayed open in defiance of new Covid-19 restrictions in Bradford has now closed its doors. 

Energy Mills Gym in Shipley said in a statement this afternoon: "The Council have been and issued us with a prohibition notice, forcing us to close or face hefty fines.

"Our staying open in the public eye has highlighted the current injustices to the community and fitness industry, to the relevant Government officials and the general public."

Earlier this week, the gym said: “The current government guidance has conflicting messages within it, to the point where we feel it is not clear enough to state that us being open is breaking any laws. Therefore we will remain open until the local council directly tells us that we must close (if they do).

“Exercise plays a huge part for so many in keeping a life balance. And it is potentially being taken away from our community with no solid reasoning as to why. Pubs, bars and restaurants remain open and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that they are in anyway safer than the gym. It is our opinion that our hygiene standards and Covid-19 protection procedures ensure that our facility is no more risky than going to the local supermarket. In fact we are likely safer.”

Anger at the closure of gyms in the Bradford district continues to rumble on as business owners fight their case for why should be allowed to open. 

The decision forms part of a suite of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. 

But after four months of lockdown and preparing to re-open on July 25, last Thursday's announcement was a huge blow to gym businesses in the district. 

Many have spoken out about their dismay at the situation, particularly as there appears to have been conflicting messaging around who made the decision and whether it came from the Council or the Government. 

Terry Holt, owner of The Pride gym in Low Moor, has been helping to spearhead efforts to get answers. 

In a letter to Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe, and the district's five MPs, he wrote: "We believe the original decision, of which an owner is yet to be confirmed, was not data driven and underpinned by lazy and weak governance that avoided targeted measures in controlling the virus.

"The impact of which is driving thousands in to neighbouring councils and using their facilities thus increasing contact between different social circles. All the while we are in the midst of an obesity and mental health crisis.

"As you’re aware, we’re the only sector closed down. Meanwhile fast food is enjoying tax subsidies and initiatives to boost custom.

"In addition to the original requests which are still unfulfilled in the open letter, I request that the Council reconsider their approach to a proactive and constructive effort in order to inspect and sign off facilities as Covid-19 safe. Thus taking a proactive and constructive approach.

"I implore you, as leaders and elected representatives of this district to take ownership of this debacle. I await a response addressing all points. I’m available to support any action or change to the approach and work with the Council and Government."

Planet Fitness, Halifax Road, and Streamline Fitness in Wibsey, said there was "no adequate reason as to why" gyms have had to close.

They said: "This closure is unjustified, illogical and irrational. Without any scientific evidence or data, we believe the lockdown of gyms only is a borderline unlawful, prejudicial, and severe restriction of trade.

"Rather than halting the spread of the virus, the council has inadvertently caused people to travel further afield, out of their own local area in order to use leisure facilities. Where a gym may be closed in the BD6 postcode, the public are still able to use leisure facilities in the HX3 postcode – less than 3 miles away. This means more movement in and out of areas, more instances of meeting others outside of social bubbles, and far more risk of transmission."

An e-petition has been launched in a fight against the decision, which can be viewed by clicking here.

UKactive has issued a statement on local restrictions.

It said: "Ukactive and its members have the upmost respect for the work the respective national governments and local authorities are undertaking to continue the fight against COVID-19 and contain this virus.

"The fitness and leisure sector is also integral to this fight, providing a national service that supports millions of people to improve their physical, mental, and social wellbeing. This service happens day in, day out and is inclusive of all ages and backgrounds.

"Unfortunately, the sector is now the victim of recent decision making at both national and local government level that seems to be based neither on scientific evidence, nor factual accuracy. This is regrettably leading to delays in reopening facilities and also returns to closure in localised areas, threatening business failure and job losses.

"The health and safety protocols for the sector have been approved by the leading health authorities in the land, including the Chief Medical Officer, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, Public Health England, and the UK Government. Furthermore, there is a growing evidence base from across mainland Europe of the success of the health and safety protocols within gyms, reflected in the UK Guidance, that has allowed millions to use these facilities in a safe way over the past few months, improving their health, wellbeing and resilience against COVID-19.

"We urge all decision makers at both national and local government level to make decisions impacting the fitness and leisure sector on both the scientific evidence and operational guidance available.

"There is a growing mistrust in the decisions being made that impact the future of the sector. Ukactive will support that decision-making process as required and have the experts on hand to support Government when making these.

"This sector is vital to our nation’s future health, and it should be supported and encouraged to play its full role in combatting COVID-19."

What has Bradford Council said? 

The Council has said that the nature of gyms and fitness centres means that people are exercising "and so breathing more heavily and sweating in an indoor environment, often in close proximity to others for more than fifteen minutes, and often using multiple pieces of equipment so there is added risk". 

It said the decision to close gyms was taken by the Government who were advised by their experts.

In a statement today, Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “Neither the Government nor the Council wants to close businesses and we understand how difficult this can be, but Bradford currently has the third highest Covid-19 rate in the country and we accept that firm action needs to be taken to bring this rate down.

“We were quite clear in our statement yesterday and in our letter to the gyms that the Council is in active dialogue with Government as a place of high infection. 

"We did raise the question of closing gyms with the Government, just as we’ve raised questions about whether they will enable us to do local testing, whether they will provide home testing kits, whether they will give more grant money for businesses affected and whether August 1 was really the right time to be lifting further restrictions.

"So far they’ve chosen to legislate some things but not others, plus they’ve added in new regulations which we didn’t anticipate, that is their choice. 

"The Government talk to all councils most affected but then the Government makes the decisions without us in the room because only they have the power, based on their experts’ advice.

"As we have also said, Bradford Council supports the Government’s decision on these restrictions. I have full sympathy for the businesses affected and will do my best to push for money from Government to support them but must stress it is important to respect the regulations to keep people safe.”