St Helens Borough Council has sought urgent clarification from Government on the provision of leisure services under its ‘very high’ Tier 3 COVID-19 restrictions and is now able to review the imposed closure of local leisure centres.
After careful consideration of the latest guidance available, the council has been able to provide a range of youth activities including swimming and put forward an amazing programme of outdoor and online activities for residents, while complying with Government’s Tier 3 restrictions.
Private gyms and leisure centres may also be able to operate with similar online and outdoor activity offers, and should look to the latest guidance online at www.gov.uk/guidance/local-covid-alert-level-very-high.
The exemption for children’s and youth activities mean that access to indoor facilities for the following services will be maintained:
- Karate, judo and netball community clubs (all under 18’s) at Sutton Leisure Centre and Queens Park Health and Fitness
- Youth and children’s swimming clubs at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Swim Squad at Queens Park Health and Fitness
- Swimming lessons for children at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Queens Park Health and Fitness
- Primary school swimming programme at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Queens Park Health and Fitness.
To ensure compliance with Government’s Tier 3 restrictions, no parents will be allowed to remain in the building for these children’s activities.
The centres will only open their doors for these specific sessions and will remain closed at all other times.
Council leisure centres will provide an extensive timetable of online classes and training sessions available free of charge. This programme will be a mixture of live and pre-recorded instructor-led virtual sessions, while Go Active Running Clubs are able to continue as normal.
The Leisure Service will also be introducing:
- Live instructor-led outdoor fitness classes at Queens Park and Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness centres, risk assessed and in line with social distancing guidelines. These will include a range of activities, from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Spin, boot camp and cardio classes, with a maximum of 30 people.
- Live outdoor Holistic classes such as Tai Chi
- Live personal trainer sessions using the outdoor gym equipment at Queens Park and Mesnes Park (maximum of five participants plus instructor).
- Go Active Walking Club
Councillor Anthony Burns, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Leisure, Libraries and Heritage, said:
“The restrictions imposed on us by Government have caused a great deal of confusion and frustration. The non-negotiable closure of leisure centres and gyms is just one of many requirements on which we’ve urgently sought much-needed clarity.
“This is especially concerning given the fact that Lancashire have been placed in the apparent same Tier 3 but can seemingly keep their gyms and leisure centres open. Of this we are demanding an explanation from Government.
“In the meantime, we can now announce that we’ll be able to retain and provide an amazing programme of activities for our residents, pulled together at a moment’s notice by our incredible leisure services team.
“Sports, health and fitness activities are proven to contribute significantly and positively to the participant’s mental and physical well-being, so it is vital that we maintain access wherever we can, and sustain so many valuable community clubs whose existence could be threatened by a second shutdown.”
In a joint statement made earlier today, Leaders and Mayors from across the Liverpool City Region, including Councillor David Baines, Leader of St Helens Borough Council, said:
“We are very conscious of the high rates of coronavirus in our region and the pressure this causes on our NHS, and have therefore always understood the need for some action to bring the virus under control and protect our residents. However, we have always been clear that we were given no choice about the specific package of measures that would be applied to us, or the scientific evidence to support them.
“We note the decision to move Lancashire into Tier 3 today, while also being concerned that there appear to be differences between the two packages of measures, particularly the opening of gyms. We therefore require Government to explain, with evidence, why they believe gyms in the Liverpool City Region are a greater risk for COVID transmission, than those elsewhere.
“We simply will not accept our region being treated differently to other Tier 3 areas, without robust scientific evidence. These inconsistencies in restrictions between areas within the same tier risk undermining the new system from the beginning.
“So, today we are once again demanding that government urgently supplies us with the scientific evidence behind their decision to close gyms in our area, while allowing them to stay open in other areas.
“In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to support hospitality and leisure businesses that are affected by the new restrictions via our own £40m emergency fund, using local funds that have been repurposed to support our economy. The fund has opened for applications today, and we are continuing to press the Government for a wider economic support package, including increased funding for furlough and self-employed people.”