CONTROVERSIAL plans to turn a shop into a gym have been withdrawn after residents complained.

Developers at Unite Students say they have struggled to rent out the empty units on Parade Green underneath the huge new student development on James Wolfe Road.

They said the only people who have shown interest want to run a ‘boutique’ gym from the site – but planning restrictions currently in place means it can only be leased to a supermarket or retail shops.

Unite Students asked Oxford City Council earlier this year to lift the planning restrictions so that a gym could set up inside.

But residents hit-out at the lack of parking in the area, saying it would be a nightmare for locals.

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Instead, they want to see a coffee shop or a newsagent in the spot – despite bad feedback from shopkeepers who haven’t shown interest in a year and a half.

Unite Students said business owners complained that the 887-students living there would not be enough to make a profit.

They said: “Marketing began in May 2018, however the location is very much in a tertiary location.

“Interest has not been helped by profound structural changes in the retail market, with many retailers struggling and reluctant to expand.

“However there has been interest from the health and fitness sector, demand for which is ever increasing.”

The gym was described in the plans as a ‘boutique fitness studio’.

The idea was that the gym wouldn’t be traditional in the sense of people walking in and out to use equipment, but instead would run classes for members only –who wouldn't only be allowed in groups of 27 at a time.

Unite Students said: “In summary, this statement provides a robust justification as to why the alternative use of the proposed floorspace which is sought here should be considered acceptable – the proposal makes an effective use of floorspace for which there has been very limited demand for uptake of the authorised use.”

Despite proposals for the gym to be ‘car-free’ without any spaces – residents wrote in now-deleted comments how the gym would encourage people to drive-in and clog the roads with their cars.

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Unite Students arranged for a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in the area – which is still being decided.

But they withdraw plans before a decision was made for the gym on the back of residents rage.

Simon Griffiths, director of operations at Unite Students said: “Following consultation with local councillors and residents, we have withdrawn our planning request to change the use of a retail unit at Parade Green to a health and fitness studio.

“The views of our neighbours are important to us, and we want to work with them and Oxford Brookes to ensure Parade Green has a positive impact on the local area. We recognise that local residents value the possibility of a convenience store and coffee shop, and we will continue to look for suitable tenants that will benefit the local community."