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Grange Paddocks forced to drop 'money-grabbing exercise' of extra charge for members to book fitness classes 14 days in advance after European Super League-style backlash



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In the week when the proposed European Super League collapsed within 48 hours of being revealed, so Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre in Bishop's Stortford backed down over its own goal of a plan to charge members for priority booking for fitness classes.

No sooner had word got out that operator Everyone Active was offering members priority booking 14 days in advance – for £9.99 a month on top of their membership fees – than the idea was dropped.

The company, without consulting leisure centre owner East Herts Council, advertised the offer to the dismay of members, who slammed it as "a money-grabbing exercise" and "elitist".

Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre off Rye Street is operated by Everyone Active on behalf of East Herts Council
Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre off Rye Street is operated by Everyone Active on behalf of East Herts Council

Angry letters were received by the Bishop's Stortford Independent and there was outrage on social media.

"Even before Covid and lockdown it was difficult to get into fitness classes at Grange Paddocks, but now if you've got the money you can have priority booking, making it even harder for those who haven't got the funds to enjoy getting fit in a centre," said long-term member Trisha Spurling.

"As East Herts Council awarded Everyone Active a 15-year contract in 2020, how are they going to make sure everyone in Bishop's Stortford gets the opportunity to use this new leisure centre when it's built and not just those who have money?

The current leisure centre at Grange Paddocks, which is to be replaced by a brand new building
The current leisure centre at Grange Paddocks, which is to be replaced by a brand new building

"As the name implies, Everyone Active should be for everyone and not just those who can afford to pay the extra."

Cllr Eric Buckmaster, East Herts Council's executive member for wellbeing, was contacted by residents and fellow Conservative district councillor John Wyllie (Bishop's Stortford South).

He said: "I discussed it with East Herts officers and Everyone Active was asked to withdraw the scheme. My personal view is that it didn't strike me as what you would expect in terms of equal access. We want to give everybody as much opportunity to book activities as possible.

"And with any changes to policy, we would expect Everyone Active to put a business case to East Herts for us to consider – that didn't happen here."

Artist's impression of the new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre
Artist's impression of the new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre

Dan Humphries, contract manager at Everyone Active, said: “In order to allow more booking flexibility and based on wider customer demand, Everyone Active was looking to introduce a new booking system which allows customers to book activities 14 days in advance. This is offered in the form of an add-on option for all members.

"This system is already in place at some of our other centres in the South East and has been well received by customers there.

READ ALSO Drone video shows East Herts Council's new Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre in Bishop's Stortford taking shape

"However, upon reflection, discussion and consultation with our partners at East Herts Council and customers, we have now decided that this is not the right fit for our members in East Herts.

"This is also due to there being reduced studio space at Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre and in light of the current Covid restrictions. This will ensure no further disruption is caused to our members."

What members said in letters to the Stortford Indie

From Trisha Spurling, of Bishop's Stortford –

My husband and I joined Grange Paddocks the day the doors opened as a new centre over 10 years ago. We've been doing fitness classes every week since it opened.

We've always felt grateful to Grange for the friends we've made there. New members have always commented on the closeness, the banter, that extra buzz, not just from exercise but the encouragement of those around us. Even the fitness instructors past and present have said to us it's their favourite place to teach as it's like no other.

This is all about to change. It seems Everyone Active are quite happy to upset their long-term members. It seems that fitness is no longer for all – not any more!

Even before Covid and lockdown it was difficult to get into fitness classes at Grange Paddocks, but now if you've got the money you can have priority booking, making it even harder for those who haven't got the funds to enjoy getting fit in a centre.

We are now being offered, for £9.99 a month on top of our regular membership fee, the facility to book classes 14 days in advance. This makes it no longer possible for those who can't really afford that extra and shouldn't have to pay extra to get into the classes they already struggle to get into. This is also being offered as a premium membership deal.

As East Herts Council awarded Everyone Active a 15-year contract in 2020, how are they going to make sure everyone in Bishop's Stortford gets the opportunity to use this new leisure centre when it's built and not just those who have money?

As the name implies, Everyone Active should be for everyone and not just those who can afford to pay the extra. Needless to say, I won't be paying the extra!

From Pamela Abbott –

I wanted to raise a concern to the two-tier charging process that is being implemented at Grange Paddocks.

I was under the impression that this gym/swimming pool was originally set up to help local people to have a healthy, active lifestyle with some financial support from the local authority.

I have been a member for a number of years, with my children learning to swim and competing in the water polo team.

I have used the classes and gym and endured problems with pool/changing room upgrades, studio maintenance and various issues with leaks and booking system issues.

I have stuck with Everyone Active but am now appalled to learn that they are bringing in a two-tier system whereby in order to secure a space on the classes you will need to pay an additional monthly fee of £9.99 in order to book 14 days in advance.

It has always been difficult to get on the list for a confirmed space for a class, but now, unless you have available extra income to invest in this privileged status, you will not get a space.

From my experience, the majority of people using the classes are women, so they will be hit hardest at a time when we need to encourage our girls and women to have confidence to exercise in a safe space with like-minded others.

This is a money-grabbing exercise with no guarantee you will even achieve a booking if others also feel pressurised to take up this 14-day advanced priority booking.

From Joanne Child –

I am writing to you to highlight a problem with the way Everyone Active at Grange Paddocks is treating their customers and people of our town.

In this day and age, how can there still be segregation, elitism? All over a company's greed for money. How can a council-backed gym allow this to happen?

I am talking about money giving you priority to your health both mentally and physically.

I for one rely on the gym as a happy place – a place not only to get fit but to recharge my mental wellbeing.

If, by allowing people to pay and book 14 days in advance, then what about those who can’t afford it? What about their wellbeing?

This is not a way to treat people nowadays. I didn’t realise we lived in such a shallow and divided town.



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