Ex-policeman’s campaign to save East Sussex training centre - ‘My family and I have worked so hard to build this and we don’t want lose it’
A campaign has been launched to save an outdoor training facility from closing.
The Lions Den, in Brede, has operated for three years and was set up by Rick Burgess, who owns fitness business RAW FIT.
Rick, of Westfield, applied to Rother District Council for retrospective planning permission for the change of use of the land from agricultural to be used for his outside fitness facility.
But the authority has refused permission, saying the site lies within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
More than 1,100 have signed an online petition, calling for the facility to remain.
Rick said: “I founded RAW FIT when I realised the importance of exercise towards mental health. I know first hand how much it can help. I served as a police officer for 15 years and I was medically retired just over two years ago after I was diagnosed with job-related PTSD, anxiety and depression.
“I put all my efforts into building an outside training facility to promote the benefits of exercise with mental health.
“The facility is family-friendly and you will often see my children around while I’m coaching as fitness is encouraged on a family level.
RAW FIT has promoted and trained outside fitness for a number of years, starting out on the seafront in St Leonards and in Alexandra Park, Hastings.
“The facility has an outside training area, woodland with trails for walking and running, it also boasts an obstacle training facility which is one of only a small number across the country. It offers training and exercise for all ages and abilities.
“We have all seen how important it is to be fit and healthy, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic.
“We are at risk of losing our land due to technicalities with the council planning. We were confronted about 18 months ago with an enforcement notice stating that the use of the land currently wasn’t sufficient for what we used it for. So we applied for change of use through Rother District Council and they have just refused the application, purely because we are in an area of natural beauty.
“The facility has been there for three years now and the planning issue was only raised in June 2020. We have been trying to obtain the right change of use ever since.”
Rick said the facility has raised more than £10,000 for SANE, the mental health charity.
He added: “My family and I have worked so hard to build this facility and we don’t want lose it.”
The online petition can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/keep-the-lions-den-for-a-healthy-body-and-mind.
A spokesman for Rother District Council said: “We can confirm that planning permission for change of use of the land at the site known as The Lions Den has been refused. The applicant has a right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.
“The owner has been asked to cease the unauthorised use of the land and enforcement action may be taken if necessary.”