Support to open Northam pool and gym

Torridge Councillors met for an extraordinary full council meeting on Monday to debate and reaffirm their commitment to a package of funding support for 1610, who operate leisure facilities across the district. Under the previous plan Northam pool and gym facilities were only days away from reopening prior to the most recent lockdown announced by the government at the start of November. This would have been the first-time facilities would have opened for many months due to issues in adapting facilities to Covid-19 operational guidelines, which had proven difficult to implement in the smaller facilities 1610 operate.
Councillors were reminded that an extra sum of £141k had already been agreed, which 1610 had indicated would enable them to reopen Northam Pool, albeit at a reduced capacity and with other restrictions. They also heard that the reopening of Holsworthy pool had been investigated further but would likely require structural alterations to reopen as the existing facility remains too small to operate safely under current restrictions. Works to renew part of the roof structure at Torrington pool continue as well as the specialist work to remove unexpected asbestos material discovered during the build, which had added £65,000 to the costs. As planned in the previous opening preparations the use of the Sports Halls by Schools at both the Holsworthy and Torrington centres has been preserved and will continue for now, although wider community use for sports like 5-aside football, netball and badminton is not currently permitted under the Government guidance. As a result, neither Holsworthy nor Torrington facilities are likely to reopen before the new year.

The funding so far has gone primarily towards the costs of recommissioning the Northam Pool facility, which includes extra Covid-19 measures such as screens, sanitiser stations and signage. It also includes contributions towards the costs 1610 incurred whilst all facilities have been closed since March 2020 and to support them for the period up until March 2021. The recent four-week closure under lockdown 2 has led to further cost pressures being reported by 1610, which the Council are awaiting further detail on. In the meantime, 1610 have advised that they will seek to reopen the gym and group exercises at Northam tomorrow – Wednesday 2nd Dec and the pool later in the week. It is probably advisable to check the 1610 website before travelling and bookings may be required.

Lead Member for Leisure – Councillor Cheryl Cottle-Hunkin said:

“We all recognise the real issues the Covid-19 pandemic has caused in many different areas of our lives. We remain convinced as Councillors that leisure facilities are important for everyone, particularly the elderly and children and are essential to the health and well-being of our community. While we were optimistic that at least some of our facilities at Northam would reopen previously this was unfortunately delayed due to the most recent national lockdown. We now have a green light for 1610 them to reopen this week, which will be a huge relief and moment of celebration for many.”

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