Chelmsford Council keeps under 16s restrictions to Riverside leisure centre

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Plans are being drawn up for the reopening of Riverside Leisure Centre, with residents likely to have to book gym sessions in advance.

The Chelmsford leisure centre has been closed since March 20 due to the threat from the global pandemic, but it has been operating online fitness classes.

Chelmsford City Council is working through plans to reopen the centre, with gym sessions available for pre-bookable one hour sessions only, with 15 minutes in between to allow for cleaning.

The council has indicated it is keen to open as many services as it can so long as it is safe, not least because of the enormous financial burden the lockdown is having on its revenue, it takes about £30million in fees and charges each year from parking and leisure.

It is estimated that the city council’s total loss of income this year will be around £5.2 million, even including a £1.8 million grant provided by the government – a big gap in the authority’s finances.

In the meantime it has decided to keep the current arrangements by not allowing under 16s to use it after 5.30pm – restrictions had been brought in after concerns that some young people were being disruptive.

But the council has said it will keep the situation under review when it does reopen.

Cllr Rose Moore, Cabinet Member for Greener & Safer Chelmsford, said: “But services will be very different to begin with and this applies to our young users as well as other users.”

She added the council may allow for special additional dispensation for those under 16s who are athletically talented and may benefit for extended gym time.

“Our under 16s will have the same access as they did prior to lockdown, they will be able to book the session in the same way as adults,” she said.

“Additionally as many will not be in school at this time they will have greater access during the daytime as they would normally have.”

Chelmsford Council leader, Cllr Stephen Robinson, added: “We are going to have to keep everything under review once we reopen in July so everything is up for debate as to how we manage the leisure centre.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter