Thanks to a one off cash injection of £243,000, approved by Councillors at South Hams District Council, all of the Districts Leisure Centres will be fully opened in October.
When the lockdown restrictions began to be lifted this summer, South Hams District Council were determined to do what they could to reinstate some leisure facilities in the District. Previously South Hams and their leisure provider, Fusion Lifestyle were unable to open all facilities, due to the additional costs of creating COVID secure facilities and with a reduced footfall. The Kingsbridge pool and the Dartmouth Leisure Centre were unable to be opened.
COVID has hit the leisure industry hard, with operators covering the cost of maintaining centres with no income coming in, and this additional funding is required to allow centres to open at significantly reduced capacities. It will also support all the new safety measures required to open within government guidelines, including meticulous cleaning regimes, staff training and new booking systems
South Hams District Council recognises the huge health and well-being benefits that these facilities can provide, but had to balance the decision to open all of the centres with the additional cost, which could only be provided by dipping into their reserves
However, Councillors decided that this was a cost they felt must be spent, for the health and wellbeing of the whole District.
Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council said: “I am pleased that we have made this difficult decision today. There are significant financial implications for the Council as we have taken this money out of our reserves. However, we have now reinstated much loved and greatly needed facilities across the District, not least to teach our children to swim and for medical referrals.
“So I say to all residents, we will get the centres open, so now it is up to you, we are asking our residents to use the leisure centres or risk losing them. The only thing that will keep these centres open now is if we can get the footfall up, and bring in much needed income.
“We do not know what will happen in the future, we all know that we are facing a potential second wave of COVID-19, so there is a chance that we may need to revisit this decision, but I believe we must remain optimistic and get these centres open even at great cost to the Council’s finances, to benefit the wellbeing of residents. It is especially important in a coastal area that children are able to go to swimming classes again.”
“This must be the best result in exceptionally difficult circumstances”.
Cllr Hawkins South Hams Executive for Health and Wellbeing said: “I am delighted that the Council today supported opening all our Leisure Centres. They are an important part of our communities and the facilities they provide are important to our residents, families and children. I recently meet Peter King from Fusion and was impressed with the COVID related safety measures that are to be put in place. This is a vote of confidence in our centres as well as protecting jobs”.
Anthony Cawley, Director of Operations at Fusion said “We are delighted that all our centres are now able to re-open during October, as we know how important our facilities are to the local community. Many leisure centres have not been eligible for government funding during the pandemic. We hope that industry-wide campaigns like #saveleisure raise awareness of the desperate need to keep our centres open and financially viable for the future of the nation’s health and wellbeing”