By Grainne Cuffe, Local Democracy Reporter
A phased reopening of Lewisham’s leisure centres and swimming pools is set to begin in October.
It is expected that four leisure centres will open in the coming weeks, starting with Glass Mill, Forest Hill Pools, and Ladywell Arena in October, and Wavelengths in November.
The exact dates will be announced in early October, according to Lewisham Council.
Lewisham recently cut ties with its main leisure contractor Fusion Lifestyle in the wake of “significant financial challenges” caused by Covid-19.
The borough’s leisure facilities were managed on behalf of the council by two contractors, 1Life for the Downham Health and Leisure Centre and Fusion for the rest.
Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL), which operates under the brand ‘Better’, will now be managing the Lewisham leisure facilities previously run by Fusion.
The decision to award GLL the contract, which is for two years, was made under urgency procedures on August 12 behind closed doors, and came to light on August 24.
Most of the council-run leisure facilities were closed during the pandemic, while Downham opened with limited services in July.
A spokeswoman for the council said that GLL was in the process of assessing the centres and that “all staff will be trained on the new ways of working and rules to keep everyone safe during the continued Covid-19 restrictions”.
The leisure sector has been hit hard by the pandemic.
“The financial challenges of reopening should not be underestimated and much depends on the general public’s willingness to return to leisure centres during ongoing uncertainty due to Covid-19,” the spokeswoman said.
Councillor Andre Bourne, cabinet member for culture, jobs and skills said the success of the leisure centres “hangs on Lewisham residents feeling confident” to return.
“Many people have been in touch eager to return to activities and use our leisure facilities.
“We very much share this enthusiasm, we want to thank everyone for their patience.
“We are delighted to announce that plans are well underway to safely reopen four of our leisure centres in the next couple of months.
“We cannot underestimate just how challenging the economic circumstances are for the leisure sector.
“The success of our leisure centres hinges on Lewisham residents feeling confident to return for a workout, a swim, to join an exercise class or participate in sport,” he said.
Mark Sesnan, chief executive of GLL, said: “Customers and staff can have complete assurance that your centres will be Covid-19 secure – with one-way systems, social distancing and enhanced cleaning regimes in place.”
Pictured top: Glass Mill leisure centre, in Loampit Vale
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