Gym which offered mental health support during lockdown ordered to close

Peter Dive has been ordered to close Full Fitness Gym, Watton, after offering a support group for pe

Peter Dive has been ordered to close Full Fitness Gym, Watton, after offering a support group for people suffering with their mental health during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Peter Dive - Credit: Archant

A gym whose owner offered a support group for those struggling with their mental health during lockdown has spoken of his frustration at being ordered to close.

Full Fitness Gym in Watton has been ordered to close after owner, Peter Dive, offered a support grou

Full Fitness Gym in Watton has been ordered to close after owner, Peter Dive, offered a support group for people suffering with their mental health during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Peter Dive - Credit: Archant

Peter Dive had to shut Full Fitness Gym in Watton at the start of November, as restrictions aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus were introduced.

But legislation did not prohibit wellbeing groups from meeting if organisers provide mutual aid, therapy and support to their members.

Those permitted to attend such groups include victims of crime, people recovering from addiction, vulnerable young people and those suffering with a terminal condition.

As a qualified counsellor, Mr Dive began offering 90-minute sessions, allowing people to use the gym’s exercise equipment as a form of therapy.

Full Fitness Gym in Watton has been ordered to close after owner, Peter Dive, offered a support grou

Full Fitness Gym in Watton has been ordered to close after owner, Peter Dive, offered a support group for people suffering with their mental health during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: Peter Dive - Credit: Archant


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But further advice was issued by central government, clarifying that gyms may only be used for blood donation, the making of television or radio programmes, and training by an elite sportsperson.

Mr Dive has therefore been told to close - and not to exploit the exception related to the creation of programmes for broadcast.

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“You can see why the rules on support groups were a little bit questionable, but we were doing some really work,” he said.

“These people are suffering from various things, and exercise is what helps. They’ve been to these regular ‘talking’ groups and it just doesn’t make them feel better.

“We’ve received so many positive messages, but now we’ve been sent the legislation and told to stop immediately.

“There are other places you can still hold these support groups - community centres, places of worship, public libraries - but I would like to see any space that is equally as safe as my building.”

Explaining the rules, Sophie Leney, head of Norfolk County Council Trading Standards, said: “The legislation is designed to help curb the spread of coronavirus in our community.

“It is important businesses follow the law and we are happy to help them understand the legal requirements the government has put in place.

“We will advise businesses in the first instance as to their obligations, but may take enforcement action should a business remain non-compliant despite our advice.”

Full Fitness Gym will likely be permitted to reopen from December 3, once the national lockdown has ended.

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