Leisure Facilities In South Hams and West Devon
Across South Hams and West Devon, some of the Councils' leisure centres have been able to open and some have been able to provide limited facilities.
This has left many residents trying to understand what the challenges are for the provider Fusion Lifestyle, and why some centres can open and others can't.
Both councils appreciate how frustrating this must be, but would like to reassure users that they are doing everything they can to help the facilities to be up and running as quickly as possible.
Fusion Lifestyle, the Councils' contractor, have now made it possible for current members at any one of the closed centres, to use any of the open centres from this Thursday. In addition to this, any member wanting to reactivate a membership and move it from a closed to an open centre can do so with immediate effect.
Across the South Hams and West Devon from Tuesday 1 September, there will be four centres open, offering access to four gyms and three pools. These facilities allow customers to access a variety of activities in multiple locations.
South Hams District Council's Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing, Cllr Jonathan Hawkins, said, "We know that leisure centres users want to understand why we have a phased reopening of the centres. There decisions are constantly being reviewed, and we are determined to get all leisure centres reopened as fast as we possibly can.
"We have had to look with Fusion at the extremely tough new restrictions and what that would mean for the number of visitors able to use the spaces or pools at any given time due to social distancing.
"Instantly we knew that this would dramatically reduce the amount of income the centres could generate, and what they could get, might not be enough to meet all of their running costs.
"The phased reopening started with Ivybridge and this week Fusion have announced that Totnes will be opening on Tuesday 1 September.
"As I said, these decisions will be constantly reviewed and we will do everything we can to get the remaining centres open as soon as we can."
Jon Parkinson, South Hams and West Devon's Council's Leisure Specialist, said: "Parklands and Ivybridge are both large centres with big sports halls and a large membership base, this makes setting up social distancing easier than in small centres like Dartmouth or Meadowlands. For example, Fusion were able to get Ivybridge up and running without any additional funding from South Hams District Council.
"In addition to this, there is also the need for an increased cleaning regime across all of the open centres and we were made aware that changes needed to be made to the ventilation systems to reduce the risk of the infection spreading.
"Sadly some of our centres do not have the space due to the new restrictions, to accommodate the number of users needed to cover their running costs.
Cllr Tony Leech, Lead Member for Wellbeing, for West Devon Borough Council, said: "It is unfortunate, but we knew we could not get both Parklands and Meadowlands up and running, both physically and financially. However, we were determined to do what we could to provide at least some health and wellbeing facilities in West Devon.
"We have been able to meet the costs of mothballing Parklands and Meadowlands during the lockdown, plus the ongoing costs of keeping Meadowlands mothballed for the time being. It was agreed that getting the biggest and most easily adaptable centre fully operational is much better than having no facilities available at all."
"Across all of the centres, a significant amount of work was needed to ensure that the services offered adhere to the very strict government guidelines.
"The Council knew that facilities would need to be reconfigured to allow for social distancing on site, staff on furlough would need to return to work and undergo retraining, as well as technical changes that are required to the air handling systems.
"In addition to all this, a new booking system was also needed for all activities to allow online payment and track and trace to take place. It is hoped that our residents will now take this opportunity to return to use the facilities to help them with their overall health and wellbeing."
While most businesses have been supported in some way by Central Government, leisure providers have not received any funding, other than the furlough scheme and the availability of loans. The Covid-19 pandemic and a lack of central government support have created very challenging conditions for all leisure providers.
Throughout the lockdown, Fusion for example, has continued to maintain the centres to safeguard them whilst they have been closed. Many of their staff were also on the furlough to protect the organisation's viability.
This is a national issue, the industry predicts that usage figures are likely to be about 60% down on usual after reopening, and 40% down by the end of the financial year. Some of that may be due to social distancing, but there might also be concern from some users who do not feel comfortable exercising indoors.
COUNCILS TAKE ACTION
Both Councils recognised that they have to do something, West Devon offered Fusion a £97,000 support package and South Hams provided £88,000. In September, they will be undertaking a strategic review of their financial position and the impact of the Covid crisis. By then the Councils will also know if any support has been forthcoming from Central Government for the leisure industry.
The Councils also continue to lobby MPs and Central Government for funding. They are supporting the #SaveLeisure campaign launched by Community Leisure UK urging the UK Government to commit relief funding to enable the full reopening and recovery of the public leisure sector.
Conversations continue on a daily basis about the facilities that remain closed and users are urged to keep in close contact with both Fusion and the Councils' social media feeds for updates.
South Hams, West Devon and Fusion would like to thank users for their patience and welcome their continued support.
Anthony Cawley, Director of Operations for Fusion Lifestyle Said: "We know our leisure facilities are really important for the health and well-being of the local community. We have been working in partnership with South Hams District and West Devon Borough Council to get them open again as soon as they are safe and viable to do so.
Ivybridge Leisure Centre
On Monday 3 August Ivybridge Leisure Centre opened, this included the reopening of the new six lane swimming pool with the retractable roof and sundeck, which has been recently completed, and the dry-side fitness activities and gym.
Quayside Leisure Centre
On Monday 10 August, Quayside Leisure Centre, Kingsbridge opened with just the dry-side fitness activities and the gym in the centre at Kingsbridge.
Dartmouth Leisure Centre
This centre will remain closed for the next 2 months and the current funding package from the Council will cover mothballing costs. Conversations with the Dartmouth Pool Trust are taking place with Fusion.
Totnes Leisure Centre,
Fusion are also the operator of Totnes Leisure Centre, however they are contracted by Tadpool and not the District Council, as such any decision on reopening remains between those two parties. Fusion have agreed to open the full centre on 1st September, Tadpool Trust have provided mothball costs for July and start costs to open the centre, with ongoing financial input up until March'21 to the value of £79k
Parklands Leisure Centre,
On Monday 17 August Parklands Leisure Centre, Okehampton opened with dry activities and wet to follow later in the week
Meadowlands Leisure Centre,
Tavistock will remain closed for the next 2 months.