Forest of Dean leisure centres to begin phased reopening on 1 September
The Cabinet of Forest of Dean District Council has confirmed a plan to reopen “dryside” facilities at four leisure centres in the district, as well as the pool facilities at Lydney Leisure Centre.
The decision was made unanimously at a special cabinet meeting today (13 August), arranged to discuss a series of eight potential options for reopening which had been developed in close collaboration with Freedom Leisure, which manage the centres on behalf of the Council.
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.
The Cabinet chose Option 8: to reopen all four centres “dryside only” with the exception of Lydney, which will open its swimming pool on 1 September. Sedbury will operate on reduced hours. The remaining pools (Cinderford and Newent) will reopen on 1 November.
Councillor Tim Gwilliam, Leader of the Council, said: “Nationally this has been an immensely challenging time for the whole leisure sector. Centres have been unable to open for months and when they finally do, social distancing will mean that they will be running well below their normal capacity. That means their income will be well below what it was pre-lockdown.
“We obviously have to balance our enthusiasm for getting facilities open quickly with our responsibility to spend local taxpayers’ money wisely.“
The package agreed sees FODDC supporting the cost of reopening leisure facilities in the district with up to £400,000, if the centres need to be subsidised to the end of February 2021.
Cllr Gwilliam added: “The proposal that we open dryside facilities in all centres as soon as possible and that we open Lydney Swimming pool from September with the other pools to follow shortly in November strikes the correct balance between the desire to open facilities and the financial reality in terms of cost to the Council. Important in our consideration was the clear indication from the public survey results that people wanted the opportunity to swim.
Our selected option reflects this and allows swimming clubs and schools to have somewhere relatively close by to swim and for all other aspects of the centres to be open.
In terms of the pool location we have chosen Lydney because it is the easiest to make safe from a covid perspective and is probably in the best condition.
I understand that many in Newent and Cinderford will be disappointed at this stage, but this is a short term measure in order to get things running again and we have asked Freedom Leisure to contact all Forest swimming clubs so that all may have access to the pool if they wish. Your local pool WILL reopen in November.“
Freedom Leisure will be actively encouraging customers back into the centres. This includes all current members paying only 50% of their membership fees for September, with emails or letters being sent to those members informing them of this reduction in their first direct debit fee.
All members who cancelled during lockdown can rejoin with no joining fee and receive 50% membership fees for September.
All annual memberships will have five months added to their expiry date and an additional one month provided free for their loyalty. There will be a seven-day countdown on social media to build up interest and keep customers fully updated.
Staffing will be increased to deal with an expected large number of calls and emails. There will also be a site specific ‘walk through’ video showing what each centre will look like to help prepare visitors.
Ivan Horsfall-Turner, Managing Director Freedom Leisure, added:
“Freedom Leisure is delighted to be working with FODDC for a phased reopening. Our teams are working hard to make sure the centres are ready and waiting to welcome back the local community, and we look forward to seeing everyone very soon.”