A LOCAL couple who provide fitness lessons for young people and those with mental health issues have been banned from using the playing field in Anning Road, Lyme Regis, for their training.
At last week’s meeting of the town council’s Town Management Committee, Aneesa California, who has lived in the town for 17 years and is a member of the Lyme Regis Coastguard team, used the public forum session to ask why trade stands were allowed on the playing field for the May Fete but she and her partner, Jesse, who run California Fitness together, were not allowed to do so.
Mrs California told the council that they started using the playing field as it was convenient to where they lived in Anning Road and was safe for their clients to bring along their children.
She continued: “We were then advised we were not able to and we stopped. We used it for one hour a week on Sundays for a boot camp and up to 20 people said they thoroughly enjoyed it and it had made a difference to their life.
“We then used it for our private one-on-one clients, the reason being that it was directly outside our home, it was safe to bring children, and if I needed to leave and go on a shout with the coastguards I easily could because my car was right there.
“We understand that the Anning Road playing field is for the use of the youth of the town. We do also provide fitness for the youth football teams and we plan to expand that out to other youth teams. We are starting fitness for children aged 6 to 16 in our own personal unit in Axminster and Charmouth playing field. That will provide children with a healthier lifestyle. We have around 40 parents come forward to say they are very interested in this.
“We understand there is a covenant on the land that no trading can take place. When we were using the playing field we did not make a profit, all we made was invested on our kit and public liability insurance.
“Although there is a covenant I understand there were trade stalls at the May Fete and I would like to highlight the fact that they are allowed to trade but we are not.”
Committee chairman John Broom said he understood there could be no form of business trading on the playing field. He said the May Fete, organised by Lyme Regis Regatta & Carnival Committee, was a charity event.
But Councillor Cheryl Reynolds questioned whether every stall was for charity. It was pointed out that the trade stands paid a fee for their pitch.
She added: “We need to do something about the May Fete otherwise we are contravening our own covenant.”
Charitable donations ‘legitimise trading’
Councillor Broom said the event was a community effort but if people were there taking money and not giving it back, that was not right.
Councillor Brian Larcombe commented: “You can get charity fundraising where businesses take part but they pay a fee to the charity to do so. The charity, therefore, is the umbrella which legitimises their trading.”
Councillor Reynolds: “Can we can confirm that would mean that if they paid for their stall to the organiser of the event, which puts the money to charity, that will be okay? If we can clarify that it puts us right with the May Fete, and then I would agree that no business happens on the playing field.”
Deputy town clerk Mark Green read out that wording of the original 1934 covenant – “not for use or permit to use any part of the land or any building at any time thereafter erected for the purpose of trading whatsoever”.
Councillor Sean Larcombe said things had moved on and changed a bit since 1934, added: “I would like to know whether the meat selling stall and the hot potato selling stall at the May Fete, are they a business, a trade? Do we get rid of those? I can’t see how we can say she can’t do hers on a Sunday morning for an hour and yet a meat selling wagon and potato selling wagon are there all day.”
Councillor Broom replied: “I don’t know but if they gave something to Alan Vian [Regatta & Carnival Committee], that is a way around it.”
The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis, commented: “I believe that any stalls that are not local charities in the town pay towards the May Fete. The idea is to keep more people at the fete to raise more money for the charity. I can understand that. We can always put a stipulation on that they pay money for it.
“If we let one in person in, even a really good thing, we are inviting others in and we are not going to have a playing field for the children. There are other fields. There’s the Woodroffe School, there’s the football club and other places around she could go.”
Councillor Jeff Scowen commented: “I like what I heard from Aneesa. If she did it for children and it was for charity it would be okay. I believe this lady should be supported, I think we should be actively encouraging her.
“I think it is so important that we really do help her and come up with other suggestions rather than saying ‘well, it’s nothing to do with us’.”
Important to support mental health issues
Councillor Derek Hallett also argued that California Fitness should be supported, as they helped those with mental health issues.
“I listened to the lady, there are tremendous mental health problems in the country. It is a big thing, people don’t realise how big it is. If we had Strawberry Field sorted out a bit she may have been offered that but we haven’t,” he commented.
“The thing is she wants somewhere where she does not have to drive too far. I would say to her the best option so far is the football field and she has got the football club which she could hire if the weather is bad.
“I think the lady needs support because I think we are missing the point about the illness.”
Councillor Sean Larcombe asked who policed the covenant and what would happen if California Fitness flouted the convenant?
Councillor Broom: “If they flouted the covenant we would have to find some way of stopping her. We would have no choice.”
The committee decided to refuse permission for California Fitness to use the playing field with two councillors, Derek Hallett and Jeff Scowen, abstaining.
Speaking to LymeOnline after the meeting, Mrs California said: “We were using the park out of safety for our members children to play whilst they get fit, out of convenience due to me being on call with the coastguards and living directly opposite, and because I have a 17-month-old daughter who we may need to get home quickly for! The council don’t seem to think these reason are fit for our use to carry on and are telling us no trade is allowed on the field.”
She added that she now planned to take the matter to local MP Oliver Letwin, as she believed Lyme Regis was the “only parish that stops people bettering their health and well-being”.
California Fitness has now launched an online petition to see the covenant on the Anning Road playing field overturned to encourage outdoor fitness in Lyme Regis. The petition can be viewed at https://bit.ly/2tcFIZv