Thursday, 21 October 2021

Developer bids to open gym after closure of LA Fitness

A NEW gym could open in Henley early next year.

A NEW gym could open in Henley early next year.

A planning application has been submitted to South Oxfordshire District Council for the change of use of two units at Centenary Business Park, off Station Road, into a health and fitness centre.

It comes less than a month after the closure of LA Fitness in Newtown Road, which led to protests by members angry at the lack of alternatives.

The application has been submitted by developer Malcolm Jiggens, from Binfield Heath, who owns the units and those either side.

The site is currently occupied by catering and event hire company Place Settings but its lease expires on October 1.

He says: “Due to LA Fitness shutting there is a large demand from the Henley public wanting a fitness centre for our town’s wellbeing.

“So much so, it has been the talking point in the local paper, even to the point of a petition being set up.

“The plan is to open a professional yet functional centre for all audiences as soon as possible.”

Mr Jiggens, 56, who founded Southern Plant Hire and later sold the business, told the Henley Standard: “I’m very excited about this. LA Fitness has moved out and Henley hasn’t got a facility like it.

“I think we’re looking to replace what people have lost with LA Fitness closing. Obviously, we can’t offer the swimming pool but we’re trying to offer as much as we can.

“If we don’t try to put something out there there’s a possibility that people might have second thoughts and take up membership at a gym in Reading and Marlow, for example.

“Invesco Perpetual employs 400 people and they are walking distance from it.”

Mr Jiggens said the gym could attract young parents with children at the Treetops Nursery next door.

“It would nice to think if it was successful we could expand it and set up a lot more classes,” he said.

The gym would be on two floors with a total floor space of 3,750 square metres. On the ground floor there would be a small studio offering spin, pump and aerobics classes as well as a fixed weights area. There would also be a café.

Upstairs there would be a stretching and toning area and cardiovascular machines, such as treadmills, stationary bikes and cross fit machines, and changing rooms.

The industrial roller shutter windows would be replaced with glass.

The number of parking spaces would be reduced by one to five but eight cycle spaces would be created.

Mr Jiggens said the conversion work would cost more than £100,000 and he hoped the gym would be open by January 1.

He has applied to open the gym from 6am to 10pm Monday to Friday and 7am until 9pm on Saturdays and Sundays in order to attract a range of customers, including commuters who could visit before catching a train to work.

The gym would have a full-time member of staff and two part-timers.

LA Fitness was evicted by its landlord Henthames, which bought the site last year and is understood to want planning permission for a care home. Many of the 2,500 former members oppose the development, saying there are not enough alternatives in town.

Henley leisure centre in Gillotts Lane, the only other venue with a pool, has a waiting list for swimming lessons.

The protesters have asked South Oxfordshire District Council to list the former gym as an asset of community value. If the council approves the idea, Henthames would be legally obliged to give the community six months to compile a bid if it decided to sell the site.

Developer NL Properties has confidentially discussed the care home scheme with the town council’s planning committee but is yet to submit a planning application.

An unnamed investor has expressed an interest in buying the premises and re-opening it as a gym.

LA Fitness has apologised to members for the closure, saying it had tried in vain to negotiate a new lease with Henthames.

The district council will make a decision on Mr Jiggens’s application by October 23.

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