A few weeks ago the government announced that leisure facilities in England would be allowed to reopen from 25th July and subsequent guidance has advised on precautions and restrictions on how they should be operated. Since the announcement the Council and 1610, who manage and operate facilities in Torridge, have been in dialogue with the aim of developing proposals to reopen facilities safely and on a commercially viable basis. In the post lockdown era these have included consideration of new measures needed to comply with levels of social distancing and other hygiene routines required by current government guidance. Bringing the facilities out of hibernation and back up into safe running order has also necessitated a high degree of forward planning and preparation.
An issue in Torridge has also been that some of the existing facilities are of a size that makes social distancing awkward and very challenging, which has also hampered plans to reopen. Agreement to reopen facilities in Torridge has therefore been delayed while the issues are addressed.
A further dimension to the issue is that so far central Government has only proposed that facilities that are directly owned and run by Councils will receive financial compensation for lost income during the lockdown period. However revenue compensation for facilities run under contract such as Torridge or in other formats, which exist in a very large number of authorities across the Country, are not yet covered by any existing government compensation scheme.
Councillor Ken James – Leader of Torridge District Council said: “Since the Government announcement on the easement of further restrictions the Council have been working with 1610 to develop proposals, which we hope will allow them to reopen facilities safely and viably in the very near future. The Council are very aware of importance of the facilities for many residents in maintaining their health and as a social hub within the community. We will progress matters with urgency and also await in hope for further government announcements broadening their support as this might expedite reopening”
Ricky Hayes – 1610 Head of Sports Activities and Aquatics said: “Operating leisure facilities in rural areas is always a commercial challenge and the current circumstances have exasperated the situation. 1610 has a strong background in running rural leisure facilities and we are confident that by working collaboratively with the authority positive steps can be taken to find a safe and sustainable model to offer leisure facilities to the Torridge community.”