Last week the government announced details for when leisure centres and swimming pools could re-open. South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils are working with Better, who run the council leisure facilities, to agree to a re-opening plan for the leisure service that complies with the government guidance and meets the industry standards.
There will be a gradual, phased opening of the centres, with careful measures being put into place for both staff and public safety.
Each leisure centre in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse is being assessed independently as they all have different facilities and availability of space to make any necessary changes. Precisely when they open and how they operate when they are open will reflect that.
When the centres do re-open things will work differently at first, and not everything will be available in the early phases of reopening – for example, many programmes and classes that were running before the Covid-19 pandemic will not be available to begin with. These classes will open at later dates as part of the gradual, phased reintroduction of services.
Throughout this process the councils have been following government guidelines and will continue to do so. If necessary, the timing of the phasing could be altered depending on the latest advice, and it might be that not all leisure centres are able to open as soon as the 25 July. The council wants to help residents to stay active and are aware that many swimming clubs are keen to get back in the pools. However, the safety of our residents is paramount and access to leisure facilities may vary from town to town to reflect the latest government guidance.
Better leisure centres will be communicating to customers to advise specifically how each programme and access to activity will work.
Following discussions with Better, it has been decided that unfortunately it will not be viable for the councils to open the outdoor splash pools and swimming pools in Abingdon and Wallingford this year including the campsite at Riverside. The council run splash pads in Wantage will also remain closed this summer. All sites are very popular with users and it was not an easy decision to take but one where all parties felt there were no other options.
Cllr Maggie Filipova-Rivers Cabinet Member for South Oxfordshire District Council said: “Councils up and down the country have the difficult balancing act of helping people stay active whilst doing so in the safest way possible. We have a key responsibility to help continue to control the virus, and so it is important not to rush the re-opening of any of our leisure facilities. We’re keen to get the centres back up and running, and we’re doing so based on the best advice and guidance”
Cllr Helen Pighills Cabinet Member for Vale of White Horse District Council said: “Lots of people have successfully found new and exciting ways to exercise during the lockdown, and we are keen to look into alternative exercise options in more detail for the future of leisure in the Vale. Our existing leisure centres are central to many people’s lives though, and so it’s good to be able to start re-opening them in a safe and controlled way”