EAST Dorset villagers are celebrating after learning they will keep their gym.

Around 40 Corfe Mullen locals took to the streets in protest at the closure of their Virgin Active gym after learning days before that the doors were to permanently shut.

But although Richard Branson hasn’t changed his mind, the efforts of villagers won’t go unrewarded.

Councillor Sarah Burns, who has led the charge, said: “At an East Dorset council meeting on Thursday, it was agreed that the gym should become a community asset.

“This is a new power given by the government that means the gym will be protected.

“The owners won’t be able to sell it as anything other than a gym. The exception would be if it was to become a dementia care home, but if that happens, we will be given six months to buy the site ourselves.”

Parish councillors have already backed the scheme.

“It’s just the most fantastic news,” said Cllr Burns.

“It’s more than we could have hoped for. The gym is very important to the people who live here.”

An instructor at the facility caused an internet storm after writing an open letter to tycoon Branson as plans to close the gym were revealed.

The local woman, who has asked to remain anonymous after her comments sparked a deluge of complaints to the brand, took to her computer to pen a lengthy complaint to business mogul Branson.

She began her diatribe with the words “shame on you”.

The letter continues: “I feel compelled to write to you and ask you if you realise what a grave mistake you have made.

“For many years, I have said that walking into East Dorset says everything about the Virgin logo – happy-go-lucky but hardworking staff (in every corner of the building), an amazing atmosphere full of positivity and support that sets the mood which drives members to be the best they can.”

The letter then went viral, and has since been re-posted on Facebook hundreds of times.