A FITNESS class leader has expressed concern that she will be unable to continue operating classes if a local council impose new charges on her for use of their facilities.

Jasmine Russell, who runs fitness classes under the name of ‘JR Fitness Camp’ for residents on the Bere peninsula, is now facing an imminent requirement to pay for use of the Bere Alston recreation ground from Bere Ferrers Parish Council, who now argue that this is required due to the classes’ commercial nature.

Jasmine started her fitness classes in April 2022 and was given permission to use the recreation ground free of charge. She runs classes on a not-for-profit basis, suggesting that those who participate in the class make a donation of whatever they can afford instead of imposing a set fee, thus catering for those on low income or facing financial hardship.

At the most recent Bere Ferrers Parish Council meeting last Tuesday (May 30), Jasmine was in attendance with a number of her class members in a preliminary bid to negotiate with the council.

Jasmine said: ‘Circuits are run from May to September on the field if the weather is nice. If not, we may use the parish hall. So the rec ground is not used be me 365 days a year — in fact only when the weather’s nice. If a charge is put in place, my classes are going to come to a halt because I can’t afford this and that’s what I’m worrried about.

‘This is about both physical and mental health and creating a fitness community. I want to work with the parish council rather than be difficult.’

Class members and Jasmine pointed out that the recreation field is frequently used by dog walkers and childminders who are operating a business but are not charged for doing so by the council and questioned why the parish council precept incorporated into local council tax bills was insufficient to cover use of the recreation ground.

Parish council chair Peter Crozier stated there had been a council charging policy in place for many years, which had last been revised in 2018 for effect from 2019 onwards. He told the fitness instructor: ‘When you first started, we had no problem with it and we still don’t. You’ve got the opportunity now to meet us again and we’ll give you dates to discuss this properly, in approximately six weeks' time. We cannot make a decision in public because we have to dicusss it in private. We will then make a decision on how to negotiate with you. With everyone we deal with, there has to be a small charge somewhere along the line if they are using the council’s assets. Whatever charge is levied, it will not break this business.’

In the interim six week period before an outcome is reached, the parish council confirmed Jasmine was free to use the field without charge.