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Coronavirus / Planning ongoing at recreational trust over return of leisure centres

The swimming pool at the West Mainland Leisure Centre in Aith. Photo: SRTThe swimming pool at the West Mainland Leisure Centre in Aith. Photo: SRT

SHETLAND’s leisure centres may remain closed but there is a “lot of planning going on behind the scenes” to prepare for their eventual return.

Shetland Recreational Trust general manager James Johnston said, however, that he would be surprised if the centres would reopen prior to the schools going back in mid-August.

The network of leisure centres shut their doors in March as the pandemic struck, with the trust putting the majority of its staff on the government’s job retention scheme.

It is unclear when they will reopen but the Scottish Government’s route map says that in phase three of exiting lockdown gyms can open subject to physical distancing and hygiene measures.

Johnston said that management is currently planning around how social distancing measures may be implemented once the centres do reopen.

One issue, though, is giving the public the reassurance to use facilities once restrictions do ease.

“That’s why we’ve got to make sure that we get to a position where it’s going to be safe for the staff and the public,” Johnston said.

The trust chief also reiterated that leisure centres would need weeks of preparation work before they can reopen.

“The facilities need a three to four week lead-in time – you can’t just open the door again,” he said.

“The pools have to come up to the required temperature, there’s the water testing that needs to be done – there’s a whole range of things that need to be checked out.”

He added that financially the trust – which receives around 65 per cent of its income from the Shetland Charitable Trust – is doing okay while staff remain furloughed.

“We actually take in more money in the winter months, because of the climate here in Shetland,” Johnston said.

“We’re still trying to work out what it means between now and the end of the year.

“I guess in two to three weeks time we’re expecting to be in a better position to be able to see. But as long as the staff is furloughed and stuff like that, we have enough money.”

Johnston, meanwhile, is set to retire from the trust’s general manager position soon, with Steven Laidlaw taking over the role.