Government backs down and allows Liverpool’s gyms to re-open despite being in Tier 3 lockdown


The government has backed down on the closing of gyms across Liverpool under the area’s lockdown.

City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram told BBC Radio Merseyside they would be allowed to reopen under Tier 3 restrictions.

He asked for scientific evidence on why they were ordered to close, following the announcement ones in Lancashire would remain open in Tier 3.

It comes after one gym in the area defied the government’s tougher lockdown and was fined £1,000.

But the site’s owner launched a petition, which received widespread public support and has been signed more than 400,000 times.

City Region metro mayor Steve Rotheram told BBC Radio Merseyside they would be allowed to reopen under Tier 3 restrictions

Reading a statement on behalf of local leaders, Mr Rotheram said: ‘Collectively, we have consistently requested the scientific evidence that supported the imposition of the suite of measures under Tier 3 and we pointed out the inconsistency of the approach following the announcement that Lancashire would not in fact have exactly the same package of restrictions as our city region.

‘Talks continued until late last night and the Government have agreed with the case I put forward on behalf of city region leaders and that they would now bring us in line with other Tier 3 areas.’

He added: ‘This would mean soft play areas would be closed but gyms could reopen.’

Nick Whitcombe defied the government’s tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton – saying ‘he won’t have one to come back to’.

But he was slapped with a £1,000 fine after a member of the public reported the gym still open, before armed officers turned up at the gym to demand he close it.

The gym boss then launched a campaign in which he vowed to stay open to members despite the threat of fines and closure.

A petition, which has been signed more than 400,000 times, was launched, while a GoFundMe page, which was set to help pay any fines, topped £50,000.

Mr Whitcombe revealed the money will go to mental health charities if the fines are overturned.

Last night, six days on from launching the campaign, Mr Whitcombe issued a new rallying cry on his Instagram page.

He said: ‘Our MPs are with us, our mayors are with us, our police are with us, our NHS are with us, our gym owners are with us across the entire borough, 75 per cent of Liverpool’s gyms stand united against this madness.

Nick Whitcombe defied the government's tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton

In a new video today he said he had won support from police, MPs and the mayors of the city

Nick Whitcombe defied the government’s tougher lockdown rules and refused to close Bodytech Fitness in Moreton – saying ‘he won’t have one to come back to’ if he did. In a new video today he said he had won support from police, MPs and the mayors of the city

A member of the public noticed that the gym was still open for business and called the police (pictured in the gym) who issued a warning instructing him to close

Police officers (pictured in the gym) served Liverpool gym owner Nick Whitcombe with a £1,000 fine for refusing to shut despite strict Tier 3 lockdown rules

‘All we are trying to do is save the physical and mental health of our city region, of our country, we stand united, we have everybody behind us and we have a select few trying to derail this right now, guys we cannot allow this to happen.

‘We are part of the solution, not the problem, need you to stand with us. The fight goes on.’

Mr Whitcombe added Liverpool Garston MP Angela Eagle had been set to raise the issue of gym closures in Parliament this week.

He also shared a joint letter by the Liverpool Metro Mayor, the Liverpool City Mayor and the city’s council leaders, in which they called for an ‘immediate review’ of gym and leisure centre closures.

The campaign began after a member of the public noticed that Mr Whitcombe’s gym was still open for business and called the police who issued a warning instructing him to close.

A short while later, when he did not shut the premises, ‘seven or eight’ police officers turned up his gym, demanding that it close or face a fine.

Last week, Liverpool – and the neighbouring five boroughs which make up the city region – were put under Tier 3 coronavirus lockdown.

Hundreds of bars and pubs which do not serve meals have been shut for four weeks, with analysis suggesting as many as 1,500 businesses could be affected.

And Liverpool – at the time the only city in the top tier – went above the basic restrictions by closing leisure centres, gyms, betting shops and casinos.

Lancashire was also moved into Tier 3 over the weekend, while the government announced Greater Manchester would be moved into Tier 3 this week.

Mr Whitcombe shared footage of police inside his gym following the incident and said: ‘We have just received our first £1,000 fine at Body Tech.

Mr Whitcombe (pictured) shared footage of police inside his gym and said: 'We have just received our first £1,000 fine at Body Tech'

Police in Mr Whitcombe's gym

Mr Whitcombe (left) shared footage of police inside his gym and said: ‘We have just received our first £1,000 fine at Body Tech.’Right: Police in Mr Whitcombe’s gym

‘After meeting with the police yesterday, they told us we would get a warning first day, then a second warning, £100 fine, £200 fine and so on.

‘They were with us this morning, gave us our warning. Then came back this afternoon, orders from their top boss to issue a fine straight away.

‘So, they’ve told us ‘close immediately’ or I’ll take a £1,000 fine.

‘Obviously we still had quite a lot of members training and I said to the officers, ‘I’m not asking anyone to leave. Even if I am I’m going to let them finish their sessions first’.

‘So they’ve issued the fine. First one’s £1,000. They can come back in three hours and issue £2,000. Three hours after that £4,000.

‘It’s disappointing. They sent out seven or eight firearms officers, what a waste of resources.’

In an earlier video announcing his refusal to close the gym, Mr Whitcombe said: ‘We will not be closing our doors. We can’t.

A short while later, when he didn't shut the premises (people working out inside, pictured), 'seven or eight' police officers turned up his gym, demanding that it close or face a fine

People working out inside Bodytech Fitness in Moreton

A short while later, when he didn’t shut the premises (people working out inside, pictured), ‘seven or eight’ police officers turned up his gym, demanding that it close or face a fine

‘If we close our facility we won’t have one to come back to. We will not have a gym to come back to. There will be no business, there will be no gym, there will be no jobs.’

He added: ‘We need to keep fighting and we need you to keep supporting us. We fight the good fight. Gyms need to stay open.’

A Merseyside Police spokesman said last week: ‘We can confirm a gym in Moreton has been fined and ordered to close after opening despite the introduction of legislation prohibiting gyms from opening in the Liverpool City Region.

‘Officers were called to Body Tech Fitness on Pasture Road, Moreton at around 8.35am today (Wednesday, October 14) by a member of the public who was concerned that the gym had opened in contravention of the new coronavirus legislation.

‘Officers visited the premises and warned the owner to close.

‘Upon returning later today, the gym remained open and a fixed penalty notice was issued ordering the owner to pay a £1,000 fine, and he was ordered to close immediately.’

Chief Superintendent Claire Richards said: ‘We understand that people are frustrated with the current situation and for a number of local businesses, including the fitness and leisure industry, this will be particularly hard.

‘It’s not that long ago that gyms reopened their doors after lockdown and they did so after making huge changes to the way they work for the safety and protection of their customers.

‘But while this lockdown does present huge challenges, the focus of us all should now be on preventing the spread of the virus and getting us back to normality as safely and as quickly as possible.

‘The new restrictions have been brought in to try to achieve that, and if we don’t act decisively and collaboratively, the impact could be harder and last even longer.

‘We will therefore continue to encourage members of the public and businesses to adhere to the guidance, explain why they should and – as in this case – use enforcement where there are clear breaches of legislation.’

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