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Government aiming 'to reopen leisure facilities as early as possible in July'

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston says the Government is committed to reopening leisure facilities ‘as early as possible in July’ – as they play a crucial role in keeping all ages active.

Mr Huddleston was responding to various written questions posed by MPs about swimming and the continued closure of leisure facilities.

He also welcomed the work Swim England had carried out in conjunction with the sector to produce the Returning to the Pool guidance.

Swim England launched the #OpenOurPools campaign after swimming pools were not given the go-ahead to reopen in the latest easing of the coronavirus lockdown on 4 July.

Milton Keynes North MP Ben Everitt asked the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what steps were being taken to enable the reopening of swimming pools as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were eased – and if there was an estimated date on when swimming pools may reopen.

In response, Mr Huddleston wrote: “Sports and physical activity facilities play a crucial role in supporting adults and children to be active.

“The Government is committed to reopening facilities as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The Sport Working Group, led by myself, feeds into the Secretary of State’s Cultural Renewal Taskforce and ensures strong sector and expert support for the co-development of guidelines and will help leisure facilities become Covid-secure and reopen as early as possible in July.

Huge demand for return to the water

“As with all aspects of the Government’s response to Covid-19, we will be guided by the science to ensure that as restrictions are eased people can return to activity safely.

Mr Huddleston was also asked by Loughborough MP Jane Hunt ‘what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of the report entitled, The Importance of Pools Post-lockdown, published by Swim England’.

He answered: “I recognise the impact that COVID-19 has had on the sport and physical activity sector.

“The Government is committed to reopening facilities as soon as it is safe to do so and I welcome the work Swim England are doing with the sector to produce guidance on the re-opening of swimming pools.”

Other MPs and members of the House of Lords that have raised the issue of swimming pools being shut with the DCMS are:

  • Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green), who is also the chairperson of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Swimming
  • Rachael Maskell (York Central)
  • Alberto Costa (South Leicestershire)
  • Fleur Anderson (Putney)
  • Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch)
  • Lord Greaves
  • Alex Sobel (Leeds North West)
  • Robert Halfon (Harlow)
  • Dan Jarvis (Barnsley Central)
  • Sir Oliver Heard (North East Hertfordshire)
  • Lord Storey

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, said: “We welcome the fact the issue of pools staying shut is being raised by a number of MPs and we thank them for doing that.

“Our Returning to the Pool guidance clearly shows that pools can be used safely and there is a huge demand from people to be able to return to the water as soon as possible.”