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19 Nov 2019
ukactive CEO calls on Boris Johnson to extend business rate discount for gyms and leisure centres
By Tom Walker
ukactive CEO calls on Boris Johnson to extend business rate discount for gyms and leisure centres
Edwards said that the cutting of business rates for gyms and leisure centres would aid high street renewal and take the pressure off the NHS
Photo: Ukactive
Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, has written to Boris Johnson, requesting that the Prime Minister's proposed business rate discount will be extended to gyms and leisure centres.

Edwards wrote the letter following Johnson's speech at the CBI conference on 18 November, in which he unveiled a package of measures designed to help businesses ahead of Brexit.

One of the measures outlined by the PM was to cut business rates. Johnson said that, if the Conservative party wins the looming general election, he would launch a review of business rates at the government's first budget and “reduce the overall burden” of them.

While pubs and cinemas would get to benefit from the proposed cuts, the fitness and sports sectors were not included in the PM's plans.

In a letter sent to Johnson, Edwards wrote that cutting the rates for the physical activity sector would not only support the Conservative Party's ambitions for high street renewal, but also contribute to a healthier nation by taking the pressure off the NHS.

"I am writing to request that the proposed business rate discount, which forms part of your high street announcement, is extended to include gyms and leisure centres across the country," Edwards wrote.

"Our sector is playing a key role in addressing high street decline. In September, research by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that the first half of 2019 saw almost twice as many store closures as store openings. Despite this widespread decline, the fitness and leisure sector was one of two sectors showing a net growth in site openings.

"Our chair, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, has already written to you about the need to address high rates of retail vacancy on the high street by changing the restrictive aspects of the "use class system" to encourage fitness and leisure operators to open on the high street at greater scale.

"But your proposal to cut business rates for cinemas, music venues and pubs is the reason behind this particular letter.

"We need greater commitment from Westminster to place health at the heart of the high street vision.

"The physical activity sector can drive footfall back to our nation's high streets, while easing pressure on the NHS and supporting public health outcomes at the same time.

"In light of this, I ask that you commit to including gyms and leisure centres in your current provisions for business rate cuts on the high street."

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