Published: 18:06, 21 February 2019
| Updated: 18:24, 21 February 2019
Town centre gym bosses fear an American firm is muscling in on their turf after plans were unveiled to open a 24-hour fitness centre on the outskirts of Herne Bay.
Proposals are in to launch the all-day gym in a 10,000 sq ft building next to the new Sainsbury’s supermarket in Broomfield.
If approved, it will be leased out by the supermarket giant and operated by US firm Snap Fitness, which has centres in 19 countries worldwide.
But Sevvy Enfield, who runs Urban Fitness in New Street, fears the proposed gym could damage trade.
“The impact on us would be huge and very damaging,” he said.
“Large chains are able to undercut prices in order to drive business away from small businesses that are unable to maintain direct competition with them due to the huge gulf in financial power and available resources.
“We will inevitably lose valuable members and custom, which could become unsustainable.
“Unfortunately, this is just another example of local businesses suffering at the hands of large chains.”
Mr Enfield says he had been discussing with Sainsbury’s the possibility of relocating Urban Fitness to the vacant building on the Altira Business Park, but nothing materialised.
In its planning statement, Sainsbury’s says Snap Fitness is hoping to provide “24/7 gym access, flexible memberships and modern equipment” across one floor.
But Mr Enfield has branded such enterprises "soulless" and says he does not believe it can rival the community feel of his gym.
“Despite the obvious competition Snap Fitness and similar enterprises pose to independent gyms and family businesses like ours, we believe strongly in our value to the community,” he said.
“We are more like a local club; we have that personal touch.
“We know what we offer cannot be replicated or replaced by these soulless 24/7 chain gyms.”
Neil Mason, from Active Life, which runs Herons Leisure Centre in William Street, also believes the planned gym could poach some of his customers.
But he says he is "not particularly concerned" because it will not have the same facilities as the leisure centre, such as a swimming pool.
Planning documents reveal a "fall-back" option for Sainsbury’s would be to rent the building to a retailer, adding that a firm has already expressed interest in the site.