ONE of Dorchester’s biggest town centre shops could be split in two with part of the business becoming a 24-hour gym and fitness centre.

The Co-op in Trinity Street is asking Dorset Council to agree a change of use with part of the store to be walled up and a new entrance created for the gym.

The supermarket will continue trading but would end up almost half the size it now is.

A decision on the application is not expected to come before councillors and will be made by a planning officer in the New Year.

There has been no objection to the application from the Highways Department, the only consultee to have expressed a view so far.

The change of use application comes from The Gym Ltd and will, if agreed, involve 663 square metres of the store, to the right of the building, being used as a gym and fitness centre with a secure pin-code entry system. It is expected to involve only minor exterior alterations to create a separate entrance close to the Salvation Army shop in the corner of the Forum Centre. although a tree may have to be removed.

The application says the company will create 15 jobs. Gym Ltd, trading as The Gym, has over 160 similar operations throughout the UK, including Bournemouth, Southampton, Bristol and Plymouth, offering a ‘high quality, but cheaper’ flexible gym membership with over a third of its customers not being previous gym users.

The Dorchester operation, if approved, will involve a mix of rowing, running and cycling machines together with resistance (weight) machines. It says any music will be low level and background only and claims the volume will be controlled by limiters which should not result in any disturbance to neighbours – the closest being a row of listed town houses at Alexandra Terrace, immediately behind the side of the building.

If approved the Co-Op will continue to trade, as it does now, and will be left with 730 square metres of trading space.

Comments on the proposal, which can be seen on the Dorset Council planning website, remain open until December 17th.

Dorchester already has several gyms, including another 24-hour operation, which opened at Brewery Square last year.