Torridge councillors vote to support reopening of leisure facilities

Councillors met at a special meeting of Full Council on Monday evening to debate a package of funding support for 1610, who operate leisure facilities across Torridge. Centres had previously remained closed due to complications arising out of new Covid-19 operational guidelines, which have proven difficult to implement in the smaller facilities 1610 operate.
Councillors agreed a sum of around £141k would be provided, which 1610 have indicated would enable them to reopen Northam Pool, albeit at a reduced capacity and with other restrictions. Holsworthy pool remains too small to operate safely under current restrictions and although Councillors were keen to consider a reopening of Torrington pool, they learnt that asbestos has been uncovered in the recent roof refurbishments being undertaken. This will now have to be removed by a specialist company at a cost of £65,000 delaying any further discussions on reopening until the new year. Fortunately, the use of the Sports Halls by Schools at both the Holsworthy and Torrington centres has been preserved and can continue for now, although wider community use for sports like 5-aside football, netball and badminton is not currently permitted under the Government guidance.

The funding approved on Monday will therefore go towards the costs of recommissioning the Northam Pool facility to open, 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.

During the debate many Councillors expressed the view that the physical and mental wellbeing of residents in Torridge during the coming winter months was of paramount importance under the current Covid-19 crisis and so voted to sanction the expenditure.

Discussion will now be held with 1610 Leisure to ensure the facilities are brought out of hibernation and upgraded with the Covid safety features identified. An announcement regarding reopening, available facilities and usage guidelines for visitors will be made shortly with all parties keen to implement the Councils decision as soon as possible.

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. But now that we have a blueprint for safe operation of at least one of our pools it’s vital that we get this facility up and running as soon as possible. Leisure facilities are important for everyone, particularly the elderly and children and are essential to the health and well-being of our community. I would like to thank residents for their patience while we worked through this difficult process.”

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