'We had no option' - insists council after winning court battle to close gym for flouting lockdown rules
A council insists it had “no option” but to take legal action against a gym for flouting coronavirus lockdown restrictions by remaining open.
Ellwoods Gym, in Windsor Terrace, Horden, must stay shut for three months after Durham County Council obtained a closure order from a judge.
The ruling means the business will remain closed beyond the anticipated April 12 reopening date for gyms nationwide.
The order was imposed after District Judge Helen Cousins learned how 34 fixed penalty notices were issued to users when council and police officers discovered the gym open on two separate dates in January and February.
Karl Ellwood, who is running the gym on behalf of his father, Edmund Ellwood, insisted at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court that people were merely taking part in a “peaceful protest” against lockdown restrictions.
Karl’s brother, Eddy Ellwood, a Hartlepool gym owner and former Mr Universe, said the demonstrations were also within international human rights legislation.
But Judge Cousins approved the order “in the interests of public safety” and labelled the users “a nuisance to the public”.
The gym must now remain closed until May 17 with the business ordered to pay £1,819 court costs.
Joanne Waller, the council’s head of community protection, has now said: “This case has demonstrated that action will be taken against those who act irresponsibly and operate in breach of coronavirus regulations, ignoring the safety of members of the public.
“We made concerted efforts to engage with the business and encourage it to close and comply with the legislation aimed at reducing the risk and spread of the virus.
"We felt that we had no other option but to take steps to formally close the premises due to the level of crime and nuisance that was taking place there on a regular basis.
“Failing to follow the regulations amplifies the risk of infection by allowing large numbers of people to gather indoors, meaning the virus can easily spread from one gym goer to another through use of the equipment and the increased likelihood of being in close proximity.
"During this investigation we found that people had been travelling from around the region to attend the gym.
“The continued operation of Ellwoods gym was not only unlawful by breaching coronavirus regulations, but also endangered the life, health, and comfort of the public.”