Two Barnstaple gyms have been fined after being found to be breaching Covid-19 regulations last week. 

Council and police officers visited Brute Force Body Building Gym in Pilton on Monday 25 January and Platform Gym in Pottington on Friday 29 January after receiving complaints from members of the public. When they arrived, officers found breaches of Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations, in that the gyms were open and customers were present.

As a result of the regulation breaches, the gyms were both issued with a Prohibition Notice - a legal notice to close and ensure they remain closed during the national lockdown. They were also issued with Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) of £1,000 each by the council. A number of members of public were also issued with FPNs of £200 by the police at one of the gyms. 

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden says: "With Coronavirus infection rates being so high, blatant breaches of government rules such as this not only put individuals at risk but also put the premises at risk of enforcement action. We are grateful to our residents who were vigilant and proactive enough to report these incidents of Covid regulations breaches to us, which we are then able to follow up with the police.
"This joint action with our police colleagues proves how seriously we are taking breaches of this legislation. It is there to save lives and we will not hesitate to act on any reports of people breaking the law and putting our local community at risk. One of these visits was carried out in the early hours of the morning so businesses breaking the rules should be warned that our officers are prepared to respond out of hours whenever necessary.
"We would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the businesses who have complied with Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations - our officers are finding many more examples of compliant than non-compliant businesses. Those choosing to do the right thing in these difficult times are in the majority and we are grateful to them."
Sergeant Noel Bourke, Devon and Cornwall Police's Community Safety Sergeant for North Devon, Torridge and West Devon says: “We continue to work closely with the local authorities to ensure we are doing everything possible to maintain the safety of our communities. We are all really keen for people to be able to keep physically active in a Covid-secure way, however, it is disappointing that there are still gyms opening when the regulations in place are designed to keep people safe.
"The vast majority of businesses in our area have respected the regulations and are doing their utmost to comply with the measures and I recognise that this has been incredibly testing time for them all. The police and the council have invested a huge amount of energy to engage, explain and educate, however for the minority who continue to act irresponsibly, as in this case, we are left with no alternative but to take formal action."

Officers from the council's Food, Health and Safety team have also have also visited supermarkets, car showrooms, DIY stores and other large retailers in North Devon to check that they are complying with Coronavirus legislation. The council reports that the vast majority of businesses that are still permitted to be open for trading have successfully implemented Covid security measures and further advice has been given to businesses where it was required. Compliant businesses have welcomed the visits and reassurance offered by officers that the steps they are taking are in line with the current legislation and guidance.

Where other breaches of Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations have been found, it has sometimes been unintentional. Nine North Devon hand car washes have been found in breach of the regulations since the start of the third national lockdown. In these cases, informal action was taken as it was believed the breaches were made as a result of a lack of understanding over the government guidance on what type of car washes can remain open during lockdown. Advice was given that only fully automatic car washes can remain open and that hand car washes must stay closed. 

Council officers are continuing their Covid-compliance visits together with the police and are actively checking on holiday homes and other businesses over the coming weeks. 

If anyone wishes to report a breach of Coronavirus legislation, they can call North Devon Council on 01271 388870 or report it online.