Fitness gym receives a reprieve after being allowed to keep operating

Daina McFarlane in the Fitness Refinery gym in Galashiels. Photo: Bill McBurnie.Daina McFarlane in the Fitness Refinery gym in Galashiels. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
Daina McFarlane in the Fitness Refinery gym in Galashiels. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
A Borders gym which faced potential closure as the result of a planning dispute has been granted a reprieve.

The future of the Fitness Refinery, located within a unit at Whinstone Mill on the Netherdale Industrial Estate in Galashiels, hung in the balance after a decision over its future was adjourned in August.

But at a meeting of the council’s Local Review Body on Monday, October 17, a retrospective planning application for the change of use of the industrial unit was granted.

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Gym owner Daina McFarlane, who has invested heavily in converting the industrial unit into a gym, expressed her relief at the decision.

She said: “I’m very pleased obviously that it has been put through. It’s a huge weight off my shoulders. I will have had the business there for two years in November and it would have been a shock having to close and the members would have been really disappointed.”

Daina submitted the change of use bid in January together with numerous letters of support from members and non-members, many expressing the view that the facility had been a godsend to them during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One supporter wrote: “This is a new Borders business operated by someone in the local community and the council should be supporting the creation of a new business.”

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Despite that public support, Carlos Clarke, the council’s lead planning officer, deemed that the application was contrary to the authority’s Local Development Plan, which highlights the need to protect and retain business and industrial sites.

Without the latest backing the council would have launched enforcement action to close the premises.

Tweeddale East’s Councillor Marshall Douglas said: “This is quite a difficult one really. On the face of it they are using industrial premises which would fit better into the area but there has been a precedent in the sense that similar establishments have been allowed on that estate and elsewhere.

“It is an established business and there are jobs involved there. I would support the applicant but I would want a condition that at the end of their lease it reverted to industrial use.”

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Councillor Jane Cox, for Hawick and Hermitage, concurred, adding: “It’s an existing gym with lots of recommendations from people who use it, which are all very positive.”

Tweeddale West ward’s Councillor Eric Small Small: “They have built a good list of clientèle and I’m for them all the way.”

Members agreed that a condition was imposed that the gym return to industrial use at the end of its lease.