An entrepreneur has hit out at Blackpool Council after his hopes of opening a budget gym were knocked back by planners.
Jon Wright, chief executive of Xercise4less, says he was poised to invest £1m into converting vacant industrial premises on Sanderson Way, Marton, into no frills workout areas. But Blackpool Council’s planning committee refused the application on the grounds it would mean the loss of protected employment land.
Xercise4less operates around 23 gyms around the country, with memberships starting at £9.99 a month.
Mr Wright said: “We have been left scratching our heads, wondering why our application was rejected.
“We would have been making a £1m investment in the site and creating 40 jobs – half of which would have been full time.
“Every other council where we have opened up has welcomed us with open arms because we are creating jobs and bringing low cost fitness to the area. The building we wanted to use has been vacant for eight years, so it seems crazy to turn investment down.
“Ours is a no-frills approach. We are able to keep the cost of membership down because commercial property prices are so low, and we do not have swimming pools, saunas and steam rooms which are expensive to run.
“Around 30 per cent of our members have never been members of a gym before and every day there are amazing stories of people changing their lives.”
However, Blackpool Council said the proposals were contrary to planning policies.
Coun David Owen, chairman of the planning committee, said after the meeting: “We would have welcomed the investment and leisure facilities this company provides, but at the same time the committee is aware of the dearth of land available for economic expansion within our boundaries.
“In fact, we have had to go cap in hand to neighbouring Fylde to allocate employment land to meet our future needs.
“So to give up sites we have already identified as industrial sites would dilute our ability to meet these obligations.”
But Mr Wright, whose company has branches in Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool Leeds, Wakefield and Hull, said no other suitable sites for the scheme were available in Blackpool.
He is considering whether to resubmit the plans.