A MOTION asking the Welsh Government to re-classify gyms as an “essential service”, and keep them open in any future lockdown, has been approved by Powys councillors.

The issue was discussed at a Powys County Council meeting on Thursday, November 26.

Cllr James Evans (Gwernyfed) backed by fellow Tory, Cllr Karl Lewis (Llandinam) put forward the motion that: “As a key sector of the Welsh Economy, gyms provide essential physical/mental health and well-being opportunities and solutions to a large percentage of the Powys population.

“Continually closing and re-opening gyms is now putting an increasing strain on their financial viability, jobs and more importantly the public who rely on gyms for a wide range of reasons, for both physical and mental health.

“We now call on the Welsh Government to re-classify gyms as an ‘Essential Service’, allowing our gyms to continue operating through future lockdowns.”

The motion was passed - but it was done so by a narrow margin, with some councillors expressing concerns.

Liberal Democrat and Green Group leader Cllr James Gibson-Watt (Glasbury) said: “The problem I feel is that the motion is a bit narrow, and you can argue that the keep fit classes that take place in village halls are equally as important for the health and well being of those using them.

“Where do we draw the line? It can get very complicated.

“We’re asking members to support something that expert medical advice is advising against.”

Cllr Sandra Davies, (Cwm-Twrch – Labour) said “I empathise with those who have mental health issues, and others who would need physiotherapy and an opportunity to exercise.

“Covid-19 is a horrendous disease, and in an enclosed environment where people are breathing the same air, the risk increases and I cannot support this motion.”

Cllr Joy Jones (Non-aligned – Newtown East), spoke in favour: “They are important to many people including myself.

“During the lockdowns I found it very difficult not being able to use them.

“I was concerned about going back when the reopened.”

She explained that the numbers of gym users is restricted, social distancing is maintained, equipment is cleaned down regularly, and there are plenty of hand sanitisers around for people to use,

“I feel very safe in  the gym,” said Cllr Jones.

Cllr Emily Durrant pointed out that gyms were sixth on a list of official Government data as places for contracting coronavirus.

“That’s ahead of people contracting it in care homes,” stressed Cllr Durrant.

Portfolio holder for Young People and Leisure, Cllr Rachel Powell, (Independent – Beguildy) brought data to the debate that she had received from Freedom Leisure, who run leisure centres for the council.

Cllr Powell said: “From August to October there were 61 million visits to leisure centres and gyms across the UK, in Powys there were 120,520.

“People have spoken of an increased risk, but there’s no evidence of that at all.

“The whole point is to raise this issue so that the Welsh Government do debate it,

“We need to understand about the prevention agenda, Covid is not going away in a rush, but mental health and obesity are going to increase.”

Adult Social Care portfolio holder,  Cllr Myfanwy Alexander, (Independent – Banw) said: “There is no way to avoid risk here, it’s a question for us as individuals to think, what is the best thing to do?”

The motion was backed by 29 votes to 27 against and four abstentions.

After the meeting Cllr Evans tweeted that he was “really pleased” that the motion had been passed.