Gender row at Lowestoft leisure centre

A HIGH pulse rate is no bad thing for those of us who regularly visit the gym.

But blood pressures are rising at Lowestoft's biggest sports centre – in a row over plans for women-only sessions.

The decision by the Waterlane Leisure Centre to introduce women-only swimming and spa sessions on Tuesday nights, and to possibly extend these to its gym, has prompted accusations that it is discriminating against men.

One man who regularly uses the pool and gym is so incensed by the move that he has launched a petition demanding that the Sentinel Leisure Trust, which runs the centre, immediately scraps its plans.

Mike Anderson, of St Peters Street, says he has collected nearly 400 names for his petition.

And he says about one in four of signatures come from women who use the centre.

Mr Anderson, who visits the centre every day after work, claims the women-only sessions discriminate against men and says they are being held at a time when a lot of men would like to use the gym or pool.

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He said: 'I am really, really cheesed off with this. The people down the gym are really upset about this too.

'Virtually everyone I have spoken to is dead against it. It is just unbelievable, totally unbelievable.'

Mr Anderson who hails from South Africa and works in the offshore industry on remote-controlled submarines, has contacted the Equality and Human Rights Commission to see if the trust is in breach of the Equality Act 2010.

However, the commission has told him it is free to run women-only sessions, as long as these constitute 'positive action provisions' that allow certain people to overcome a particular disadvantage and are proportionate to the centre's use.

Nick Greenacre, operations manager for the Sentinel Leisure Trust said the women-only pool and gym sessions were brought in to meet demand. He said: 'Following requests from female club members we agreed to trial a 'ladies only' gym session for 1.5 hours a week for two months. However, after early feedback, we've decided not to run a trial but instead to consult with our members on this proposal and seek views on the most appropriate time.

'Naturally, we want to get the balance absolutely right for all our members and any decision to create something more permanent would only be made if the demand was clear.'

The first women-only swimming sessions started on Tuesday, replacing a scuba session, he said.

Mr Greenacre added: 'As always we are monitoring the success of the session over the summer period and will consider any feedback when planning future activities.'

The new-look Waterlane Leisure Centre was re-opened in December following a �8m redevelopment.

The project, led by the Waveney District Council, which owns the building, and managed by the newly-formed Sentinel Leisure Trust, has seen the centre transformed with a new learner pool, soft play area, thermal spa, beauty therapy area and meeting rooms. It also has an improved fitness area, dedicated studio space, a refurbished main pool, caf� and restaurant – all in more spacious surroundings

After contacting The Journal about his petition, Mr Anderson was suspended from the centre.

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