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Personal trainer Alan Grant and his wife Abbie set up Fisherrow Bootcamp (FBC) in 2012 with a handful of clients and have grown a fitness community of 300 members.
Dozens attend the 40-minute workouts in the public park at Musselburgh Links, which is used by a number of fitness groups, as well as football and rugby teams, and home to events including fireworks nights and car racing.
While just four complaints have been made about noise from their sessions in five years the couple says they are being “singled out” by the council after receiving letters, calls and even a threat of an ASBO.
The company was asked to apply for a Public Entertainment Licence in 2019 and FBC says they have adhered to licence conditions, including limiting use of the space to an area near the top to minimise noise for local residents.
But tensions escalated recently after the council sent a letter to Links residents advising them to complain about fitness camps.
In the letter dated October 1, the safer communities team says they are working with police to address reported noise issues associated with the operation of fitness camps on Fisherrow Links. It displays a link about anti social behaviour saying ‘don’t suffer in silence’.
A total of four complaints have been received about the FBC sessions since 2016, with two of those in the last year, according to information obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
Of a total of five complaints about all boot camps held at the Links in 2021, two were believed to be linked to FBC but no investigation was carried out to verify this. The council also confirmed no noise monitoring or investigation has been completed in relation to complaints.
One email from a local councillor seen by the Evening News refers to Alan as ‘Mr motivator with his harem in full flow’ and states that ‘women getting fit’ shouldn’t be at the expense of ‘the peace and quiet of the good people of Fisherrow’.
Police turned up to a class on Sunday, October 17 and asked to see their licence, which they are required to display. But Mrs Grant says officers told them they saw no problem with noise levels and that it ‘wasn't a police matter.’
The couple has submitted an official complaint to the council alleging unfair treatment is putting them at a commercial disadvantage.
Mum-of-four Abbie said: “It was intimidating. We’re worried about what will come next. We’ve worked really hard to make a difference. Since Covid-19 some people have been less confident about coming out of their homes so it’s more important than ever that people have access to supported opportunities to improve their physical and mental health.
"We understand the sessions can be busy but we are respectful. It’s a small part of the links we use, so parking is possibly an issue. They could work with us to resolve that. They should be working with businesses to make it easier for them, coming out of a pandemic.
"We’ve done a lot for the community but Alan is made to feel like a criminal. This is causing us a lot of distress and anxiety.”
"We’re shocked by the communications. It’s the council saying things like, ‘how can we throw laws at them’. We’ve even been threatened with an ASBO. We invite them to come along, talk to people about the benefits and how it’s changing lives.
"We’ve paid the licence and even responded to their ask for contact details of other fitness camps. It’s clear other operators have not been pursued with the same vigour as they have done with us. And now they’ve sent a letter encouraging people to complain, they are actively looking to build a case against us. It feels personal. It’s like we are being singled out and unfairly targeted.”
A spokesperson for East Lothian council said: "East Lothian Council responds to all complaints of noise disturbance and works with partners and others, when necessary, in finding appropriate solutions.
"The council has licensed other ‘boot camps’ but any breach of licence conditions or indeed any unlicensed activity would be a matter for Police Scotland to investigate and enforce. We strongly refute any suggestion that Fisherrow Bootcamp is being targeted by the council and appropriate council teams are available to discuss any concerns.”
Police Scotland were contacted for comment.