A row is emerging between outdoor fitness businesses and East Hampshire District Council over the use of Love Lane’s green space.
Georgie Sayle owns the East Hampshire franchise of One Element – a company that provides outdoor group fitness, including weight training, circuit training and HiiT sessions.
Like many others, lockdown left Ms Sayle craving social interaction outdoors.
When restrictions lifted, she launched One Element first in Selborne, and another in Alton two months later.
East Hampshire District Council was happy to give Ms Sayle permission to use these green spaces, recognising the positive effect social, outdoor exercise has on the community.
Ms Sayle said: “I go early to the parks to litter and poo-pick before the classes start.
“We have teenagers to people in their 80s coming along and I often have people telling me how much safer they feel using the parks when we’re there.”
But when Ms Sayle reached out to Petersfield Town Council for permission to use the Love Lane sports ground, she was told ‘no’.
When Ms Sayle questioned this decision, Petersfield Council said the decision had come from East Hampshire District Council.
Mark Allen, owner of Body Fitness Camp, has been running fitness classes in Love Lane since July 2019.
He had full council support until February of this year, when he was issued a notice to leave by Petersfield Town Council.
Mr Allen has helped over six hundred people with their physical and mental health, and raised over £5,000 for local charities including the Rosemary Foundation.
He currently employs three staff members and has almost one hundred active members
Mr Allen said: "There is a lot for everyone to lose, including the council, there must be a better solution than this."
He added: "We need help right now, we have nowhere else to go and we are really worried and concerned about the future."
At the last Petersfield Town Council meeting, councillors were told the nature of the fitness group’s activities were outside of the planning permission for Love Lane’s use as a recreational space.
Ms Sayle said: “Of the 11 franchises we run, only three pay a fee for using the parks.
"Most councils can see the enormous upside of not just the fitness but the social and psychological benefits people get from exercise, being in nature, and with other people.”
Chris Harris, whose children attend One Element, said: “The impact it’s had on my teenagers mental health is extraordinary.
"They get up in the morning, they have drive, they have ambition, they have self confidence and self worth that often alludes teenagers.”
According to the local planning authority, East Hampshire District Council, the fitness activities proposed by One Element and Body Fitness Camp clash with the park’s ‘recreational’ purpose.
But this has perplexed both owners, with different rules seemingly applying to recreational space elsewhere in the district.
Petersfield Town Council has ruled that pursuing a Lawful Development Certificate to change the sports ground’s use is “not in the council’s best interests”.
East Hampshire has been asked to comment.