Chelmsford City Council has hit back at complaints over its policy of restricting youngsters to use the new gym at Riverside.
Riverside Leisure Centre, which re-opened in June after a £40 million project, has restricted the use of under 16s after 5.30pm every weekday – allowing them in only with an accompanying adult.
Some parents have complained that the policy is unfair and they should be allowed to freely use it unaccompanied.
The council initially had allowed under 16s to use the gym independently from their parents until closing time, but introduced stiffer controls after complaints about the behaviour of a large number during busy weekday evening sessions.
The issue has again been raised by independent councillor Wendy Daden at a Chelmsford City Council meeting on Tuesday, November 19, who said Chelmsford City Council has a responsibility to all residents and should raise the cut off time to 7pm.
A statement read on her behalf by Cllr Richard Hyland said: “It is somewhat ironic that priority one is to increase child activity and reduce obesity at exactly the same time when the Riverside gym is restricting 14 and 15-year-olds after 5.30pm when they are not accompanied by an adult.
“It is not always feasible for students schooled outside the area to workout and vacate by 5.30pm, especially if they are reliant on public transport.”
He added: “Authorities have a vital role in helping the young grow into responsible adults.
“Adult gyms are plentiful in Chelmsford giving adults options these children simply do not have.”
However, the council has said the policy is an improvement on the gym’s accessibility to under 16s, compared to the 5pm restriction imposed on the old Riverside gym.
Cllr Jude Deakin said: “At the previous gym run out of Riverside under 16s had to leave before 5pm. When it was opened the new Riverside trialled longer opening hours which did not work and there were difficulties. It was reviewed and it changed to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 7pm at weekends.
“No-one is banned, it has never been our intention to ban any member. Our whole idea is to be as inclusive as possible and with the Monday to Friday they can attend the gym as long as they have adults accompanying them. At weekends they can workout until 7pm when it closes.
“Junior membership has increased significantly since the change was announced with approximately 160 new members in October and this has continued into November.
“There have been no issues with the 5.30pm deadline with youngsters who attend, behaviour has improved among young people and there have been very many positive comments from youngsters and adults alike.”