A FITNESS class is appealing for residents help to secure a new venue after charges increased by hundreds of pounds.

Fit4Life has been running a beginners’ fitness class on Saturday mornings at Mill Chase Park in Halstead since August last year.

The park is owned by Braintree Council, which is now demanding £600 a year for the class to continue using the public space in Halstead.

Emma Coles, 34, who runs Fit4Life with co-owner Marty Smith, 25, said when the classes initially started last year they approached the council for permission to use Mill Chase Park.

She said the council allowed them to use the land free of charge, but about a month ago the authority got in touch to say it would now need to start charging.

Emma said: “Considering the council’s drive to get people in the district healthy, we feel very disappointed that they have made this decision.”

Fit4Life is a scheme recommended by doctors to improve people’s health and fitness and has been praised by Active Essex.

It launched a public appeal through Facebook to try to find a new location.

It said: “Classes cost just £3 per person. We keep the cost of this class low to allow more people to be able to access help with their fitness.”

The group is seeking a privately-owned grassy field to use for one hour a week in order to continue helping as many people as possible.

The new charge from Braintree council has been put in place with immediate effect, and Emma was hoping to find a new venue by Saturday, but so far has had no luck.

She added: “We won’t stop, but we have to find somewhere else.”

A Braintree Council spokesman said: “Over the years we have seen an increase in the number of independent fitness instructors using our parks for health and fitness on a commercial basis.

“We recognise these activities help encourage fitness, which we do promote through our Livewell campaign and are a great way to make use of our open spaces.

“However, we charge for their use in line with other commercial activities and manage and regulate their use and maintain safety, ensuring instructors are suitably qualified and insured for the activities they are undertaking.”