Council takes the plunge

GOGGLES at the ready - swimming lessons at Antrim and Newtownabbey leisure centres are set to resume next month!

But the decision on when spas and health suite facilities, soft play, and ten pin bowling is likely to reopen remains unkown and may be delegated to council officers.

However Ballyearl Leisure Centre remains closed due to challenges presented by social distancing.

Council’s leisure centres closed on March 19 in line with Government guidance relating the Coronavirus pandemic.

Following the release of the Northern Ireland Executive’s Approach to Decision Making document, council officers developed a series of recovery plans to enable a phased return of leisure services which were subsequently approved by council.

First to open in late Mat were the golf courses, followed in June by the bowling greens, the Fitness Suite in July and limited swimming in August,

Leisure swimming including aqua slides recommenced on August 28.

At the council’s Operations Committee meeting this week, members were due to hear that, in line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s easing of restrictions as well as guidance from National Governing Body Swim Ireland, it is proposed to recommence swimming lessons from mid October.

Swim Ireland’s ‘Return to Water for Swimming Lessons’ framework details a series of measures that will be applied to ensure the safety of those attending lessons, staff and instructors.

As the swimming lessons will be delivered by coaches, there is no requirement to return additional staff from furlough.

The remaining facilities still to reopen are spas and health suite facilities, soft play, and ten pin bowling.

Due to the challenges of opening these facilities safely, it is proposed that they remain closed for the time being, but kept under review.

A report said that Ballyearl Leisure Centre remains closed ‘due to the challenges of effectively maintaining social distancing within the building’, however access to the golf course and driving range is still available.

It was due to be recommended that approval is given for the recommencement of swimming lessons at the Antrim Forum, the Valley and Sixmile leisure centres.

It was also proposed that the authority for reopening be delegated to council officers for the re-opening of remaining leisure facilities, when safe to do so.

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