District Council to discuss phased reopening of leisure facilities
The Cabinet of Forest of Dean District Council (FODDC) will meet next Thursday (August 13) to discuss the phased reopening of council leisure centres in the district.
The meeting comes after detailed discussions between the council and Freedom Leisure, which manages the centres on behalf of FODDC.
Gyms and other leisure centres closed on 20 March in line with Government Covid-19 lockdown regulations. The Government announced last month that they could reopen from 25 July with appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures in place.
A report to the 13 August Cabinet https://meetings.fdean.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=115&MId=4045&Ver=4 meeting highlights that: “Government requirements and additional guidance from the leisure industry will shape how leisure centres can operate in the coming months. They will not be able to operate to full capacity and some activities will not be feasible due to the need to maintain social distancing. “
The report notes that this will “severely reduce their ability to generate income and will mean a large number of providers will operate at a loss in the short term.”
In practice this will mean that leisure centres throughout the UK will need increased public subsidy to reopen.
Councillor Tim Gwilliam, Leader of the Council, said: “Nationally this has been an immensely challenging time for the whole leisure sector. They have been unable to open for months and when they finally do open, social distancing will mean that they will be running well below their traditional capacity. That means their income will be well down on what it was pre-lockdown.
“We are keen to get centres open as quickly as possible but we obviously have to balance that enthusiasm with our responsibility to spend local taxpayers’ money wisely.“
Cabinet will consider eight potential options for the phasing of reopening. Officers originally developed six options for discussion at a member briefing last month. An additional two options were added after member input and a review of an online public questionnaire.
Cllr Gwilliam added: “Over 1,200 residents responded to our questionnaire and there was considerable enthusiasm for swimming to return quickly. That is challenging for us as pools are expensive to run and use will have to be limited to maintain social distancing. But I think the Cabinet will really want to respond positively to the public enthusiasm for swimming if we can.
“I’ll continue to make the case to central Government that this is a national problem that will eventually require a national solution. “
The report states the cost of reopening leisure facilities in the district as potentially costing the council up to £400,000 if the centres need to be subsidised up to the end of February 2021.