A Bracknell gym that once hosted Will Smith and has run for 20 years could now close, ruining its owner’s business and livelihood and ending all the benefits it provides to the community.

Gym owner Sid Bourne had hoped to secure the future of his gym The Bodyzone until 2028 after he was granted a six year Lease Extension by the council’s Assistant Director of Contracts in March 2020.

This was prior to his current lease expiring in 2022.

However, during the pandemic, he found that the space the gym occupies in the Bracknell Leisure Centre had been transferred to its leisure contractors Everyone Active (EA).

Now, Mr Bourne is desperate to save his gym after being sent ‘back and forth’ between Bracknell Forest Council and EA.

READ MORE: Owners plea to save 20-year-old 'community' gym from closing

He said: “I was given an extension in 2020 and in that time I was told the property department were looking into finalising an extension until 2028.

“On this basis I took out a loan of £10k to invest into my business and it’s recovery.

“Then we had Covid. Over that period, I was sending emails to find out what was going on, for them to come back and tell me ‘the council are no longer your landlord’ and that I have to arrange things with EA.

“I thought, hang on a minute, this was not the proposal that was given to me.

Bracknell News: A redacted printed email which Mr Bourne says promises him a lease extension until 2028, dated in March 2020. Credit: Sid BourneA redacted printed email which Mr Bourne says promises him a lease extension until 2028, dated in March 2020. Credit: Sid Bourne

“I’ve been sent back and forth, and I asked the Bracknell MP James Sunderland to help me.

“He said there was a so-called policy change in 2020 and that I need to speak to EA.”

However, Mr Bourne said he has received conflicting information, with cllr Peter Heydon (Conservative, Old Bracknell) saying that the policy change was not new.

Mr Bourne said he has been left with no new agreement and the deadline on his current lease is fast approaching.

He has now making an emotive plea for the gym to be saved.

He said: “We’ve got kids that come in from school and do work experience, we’ve got veterans who suffer from PTSD, we’ve got people with mental health issues, and disabled people that all benefit from the gym.

“We’ve got a family unit. There’s years and years of trust between members.”

PIC

There are two gyms in the leisure centre, Bodyzone and a fitness gym run by EA.

Mr Bourne said Bodyzone gym still has its own unique offer with a mixed martial arts (MMA) floor upstairs.

He added: “If things weren’t working, my gym would have closed within the first two years, because people would go over to the other gym.

“I’ve got multi-generations coming here, men and women, from 16 to 75. They don’t feel uncomfortable, they feel relaxed, it’s a family unit.

“When Will Smith came to the sports centre, EA was here and I was here, why did he come to my gym?

“He came here not once, four times when he was filming Aladdin.

“And I’ve had other names coming to my gym like strongman Eddie Hall and Jonah Lomu as well.”

Mr Bourne said he fears the EA will only award two year leases and will increase rent and add VAT.

He claimed: “The more successful my gym will become, the less chance they will even consider giving me a new lease as they will see me as competition.”

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Mr Bourne also claimed the taxpayer could be footed with the £39,600 bill for the gym space he uses for the remainder of the council’s contract with Everyone Active.

With the contract expiring in 2028, it means the council could have to pay EA £237,600 for the gym space.

Mr Bourne asked: “I’ve tried to be patient, but there is a lot of stress involved,  and I want people to know what the truth is.

“I wouldn’t be in this position if the council granted the extension it gave me in 2020.”

Adding: “There are real people at the end of this. It’s not acceptable and I won’t let this go.”

Mr Bourne has asked for the agreement until 2028 to be honoured.

He has received the support of newly elected cllr Paul Bidwell (Labour, Old  Bracknell), who said:  “Sid and his team have delivered services to the community for over 20 years. I think that both the council and EA recognise this and will ultimately broker an arrangement that is acceptable to all parties.

“Unfortunately time is running out making this time of the year challenging for Sid and his team.”

A spokesperson for Bracknell Forest Council said: “The council is aware of and investigating a stage two complaint raised by the owner of Bodyzone gym.

“As the complaint’s process is still ongoing and not yet concluded, we cannot comment any further at this time.”

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Bracknell Forest Council has a three stage complaints process, with stage two complaints being dealt with by a director or a senior officer of a particular service.

Once the complaint is made, an investigation will take place and the council aiming to reply within 10 working days.

It has also been asked to answer the claim that it will have to pay EA the gym’s annual bill if it becomes vacant.

An EA spokesman said: “EA does not currently hold the licence to underlet this unit.

“EA is aware of ongoing discussions between Mr Bourne and our partners, Bracknell Forest Council.

“As such, we are not in a position to comment further at this time.”

In the meantime, Mr Bourne is asking for donations to assist with the future of the gym and it’s potential relocation.

You can donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/relocate-body-zone-keep-the-community-together

So far, £2,010 has been raised.