Cornwall Council has stepped in to ensure that all of Cornwall’s leisure centres will reopen within two weeks – although Falmouth’s Princess Pavilion will remain shut.
The funding will allow GLL, which operates the centres on behalf of the council, to reopen Saltash, Launceston, Wadebridge and St Ives leisure centres and Ships & Castles in Falmouth, as well as the swimming pools at Bude, Liskeard and Helston that have remained shut even though the centres have already reopened.
The council has also agreed financial support for other leisure providers that run Carn Brea Sports Centre, Newquay Sports Centre and Penzance Leisure Centre. The funding means all GLL swimming pools except one will be opened no later than October 14.
Launceston pool requires urgent maintenance and will be re-opened by mid-November once work has been completed. The centre itself will still reopen by October 14.
However, the council said that the Princess Pavilion in Falmouth will remain closed “until it becomes viable to re-open the theatre and restaurant,” which is likely to not be until next spring.
A petition has been set up to reopen the attached Gyllyngdune Gardens for people in Falmouth to enjoy.
The vast majority of the funding announced today will be in the form of loans to the providers, totalling up to £4.4 million.
It will also include additional grants, loan holidays and contract payments totalling approximately £1.7 million. This will be funded from council reserves.
In a statement this lunchtime, Cornwall Council said: “The council, GLL, together with local authorities across the South West, are continuing to call on government to provide an urgent financial rescue package to safeguard the future of leisure provision which has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“If this is received it will contribute to offsetting the costs that the council has incurred.”
The council also announced today that it would be carrying out a review of leisure facilities across Cornwall over the next 12 months.
The review will look at changes to the way residents are using leisure centres as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and how to ensure they meet community needs while achieving best value for money.
Cornwall Councillor Mike Eathorne-Gibbons, Cabinet member with oversight of the leisure agreement between the council and GLL, said: “This financial package of more than £6 million puts our residents’ health and wellbeing first and will provide a lifeline for GLL and our other leisure providers to keep leisure centres open while we carry out a strategic review of all our leisure services and continue to push government for urgent funding for leisure provision.
“The pandemic has created huge financial pressures for us as a council and this package has been a difficult decision but we must try to preserve leisure provision in Cornwall because it is so important to our residents’ health and wellbeing.
“Our leisure providers are operating in a state of uncertainty as people use leisure centres differently now than they when they did pre Covid so our providers will still be having to make some tough operational decisions in the months to come.
“We want to thank everyone in Cornwall who has gone back to using their leisure centres which have strict Covid-secure measures in place. We hope that as many people as possible will return to their community leisure centres once they are reopened.”
The financial package was approved by the council’s leader Julian German today using delegated authority powers to avoid any further delay in the centres reopening.
The package of support is subject to the finalising of detailed terms and due diligence.
James Curry, GLL’s head of service in Cornwall, said: “Having to close all our centres for four months hit us very hard financially. We are delighted to have now agreed a package of measures that allows us to re-open all our Cornish leisure centres and pools and look forward to welcoming customers back.
“There is no doubt that physical fitness is more important than ever – not just in terms of battling the virus but also from a mental health perspective.
“Covid-19 restrictions mean having to operate in a different way and that does sadly mean losing some local jobs in the short term.
“As a social enterprise and not-for-profit organisation, GLL has done everything possible to support colleagues throughout the pandemic but, as the job retention scheme draws to a close at the end of October and market conditions remain challenging, we are having to re-shape the business in order to ensure its future viability.
“Eight of our Cornish leisure centres have been open since July 25 and the feedback we’ve been getting from customers since then has been very positive in terms of how safe and confident our infection control measures make them feel.
“It’s wonderful to be able to resume most of our services but we do need the community to support us by using the facilities. In these straightened times, it really is a case of ‘use them or lose them’.”