OWNERS of two County Durham businesses have been ordered to pay a total of almost £4,000 for breaching Covid regulations.

Durham County Council has taken court action against two business people who continued to operate during the national lockdown.

Karl Ellwood, who runs Ed’s Gym and Fitness Centre in Horden, was prosecuted for three offences, after repeated breaches of health protection regulations.

Council officers were first made aware he was allowing people into the premises to train and use gym equipment during England’s second national lockdown, last November.

The 55-year-old, who runs the gym on behalf of his father, told officers he was opening twice a day to allow members of the public to train in a peaceful protest and refused a request from officers to keep it closed.

Further breaches were also witnessed later in November and again on December 1, and during England’s third lockdown, on January 11 this year.

Two days later, the council issued a prohibition notice, but when officers returned to the premises on 29 January, it was found the notice had been breached.

Durham Police issued 13 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) to members of the public using the gym and, almost two weeks later, on February 10, council and police revisited the premises, where a further 21 FPNs were issued.

Despite being issued with prohibition notices, Ellwood, of Park Terrace in Horden, continued to open the gym twice a day and the council successfully obtained a closure order in February which prevented it from opening for three months.

Ellwood was issued with a number of FPNs for the repeated breaches.

As a result of them going unpaid the case was taken to court and heard at Peterlee Magistrates Court in his absence after he failed to attend.

He was fined £660 for each offence and ordered to pay costs of £717.29, plus a £190 victim surcharge, totalling £2,887.29.

In a separate case, Lisa Chipchase, who owns Sir Thomas Barber Shop, in West Auckland, was also fined and ordered to pay costs totalling more than £1,000 for continuing to operate throughout restrictions.

Council and police officers attended the Front Street barbers in January, after intelligence suggested the premises were open in protest against Government-imposed restrictions.

Chipchase, 48, of St Aidans Drive, Bishop Auckland, was cutting the hair of a male customer at the time, with another two men also present.

A £1,000 fixed penalty notice was issued, which Chipchase failed to pay.

She also failed to attend the hearing at Peterlee Magistrates Court.

Magistrates fined her £660 and ordered her to pay £300 in costs and a £66 victim surcharge.

Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of community protection services, said: “We know that the lockdowns were challenging periods for all businesses.

“However, the restrictions were necessary to reduce the risk and spread of coronavirus and to help keep members of the public safe.

“The vast majority of businesses complied with the restrictions and we are very grateful for their efforts.

“However, we hope these cases demonstrate that action will be taken against those who act irresponsibly and operate in breach of health protection regulations.”

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