Thursday, 29 July 2021

Leisure centre to re-open thanks to cash injection

Leisure centre to re-open thanks to cash injection

HENLEY leisure centre will re-open on April 12 thanks to funding from South Oxfordshire District Council.

GLL, which operates the centre on behalf of the council under the name Better, says it is struggling financially having been closed for the last three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, the company made redundancies during periods of temporary closure and attendances were about half of what they would normally be.

Kevin Williams, partnership manager for South Oxfordshire, said it would not have been possible to get going again without the council’s funding, although the amount has not been revealed.

He said: “Practically, it means we are able to open because of the assistance from the council.

“If I’m honest, we still need more funding from the Government. It’s great that the council has helped us out but there has not been enough assistance to cover the losses we’ve had. It has been really bad.

“Other councils across the country are now offering help to GLL and practically speaking it is huge but it would have been a real struggle without it.”

The gym and swimming pool at the centre will be open but restrictions will still be in place.

Mr Williams said: “We really need people to come and use us. We need to maintain what we have in Henley because it is a fantastic centre that has everything you want.

“It needs to be used in order to keep it going and that’s not me being dramatic. The council’s assistance is very welcome but we’re not out of the woods yet.

“It is vital that leisure centres stay open. The physical and health benefits are huge and so is the mental side of it. Exercise and the social aspect of it play a big role in the community that can’t be underestimated.”

The centre’s opening hours are yet to be finalised but it is hoped it will be open in the evening on weekdays.

Visitors can expect to see the same rules that were in force last year, including one-way systems, sanitising stations and pre-booking slots.

People are asked to come “gym ready” and “beach ready” for swimming but there will be wet changing rooms available afterwards.

Customers will be encouraged to disinfect equipment after they are finished and there will be a dedicated member of staff responsible for regular cleaning.

The refurbishment of the dry changing rooms is expected to be completed in time for the re-opening. Although the lockers have remained, the flooring, wall tiles, toilets and showers have all been updated, along with the disabled toilets.

Fitness classes indoors can’t start until May under the Government’s roadmap for easing restrictions.

Mr Williams said: “We are so keen to re-open and get back into work. We were doing well before the last lockdown and we were starting to move forward.

“I’m hopeful this will be the last time of being closed.”

Councillor Maggie Filipova-Rivers, cabinet member for community services at the council, said: “It’s so important that we all look after not only our physical but mental wellbeing, especially right now.

“We have just marked a year since the first lockdown and that time has taken its toll on not only individuals but also those that run our leisure facilities.

“We need to do all we can to make sure that our residents can stay active and as healthy as possible.”

The centre has a new general manager, Kay Norton-Cole.

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