Richmondshire Leisure Trust is coping during Covid lockdown

A TRUST which provides leisure facilities over several sites between Richmond, Colburn and Darlington has said it is coping well during the closures – but is looking forward to opening its doors once again.

Andrew White, chairman of Richmondshire Leisure Trust, said all but four of the 60-strong staff team have been furloughed – but that the scheme was working well so far.

He said: “Two of our sites, the cafe at South Park, Darlington and Liberty Gym in Richmond, have been eligible for the government’s rate support grant which is helping.

“The big unknown is when we will be able to re-open, and what that will look like with social distancing.

“Before we had to close for the lockdown in March we did notice that our customers were deciding to stay away because of the uncertainty over what was safe.

“We think it might be a slow start once things do open back up.”

Mr White said the staff that have been furloughed are keen to get back to work.

“We have had to create a role of a roving caretaker to look after all of our sites.

“At Colburn, we have a ride-on lawnmower which he has been using to keep the grounds looking tidy. He is also checking the pool in Richmond, and feeding and looking after the fish in the tank at Liberty Gym.

“Our boilers have been turned off, and the jacuzzi has been emptied. Everything has essentially been mothballed, but we need him to go and keep and eye on things so we are able to start everything up again once we are allowed to do so.

“We have been supported by Richmondshire District Council a great deal, and something that has worked out well is that we needed some essential works on the filter system at Richmond Pool which would have meant closing for a few weeks.

“Thankfully, that is being allowed to go ahead now so it saves us doing it once we can welcome people back.”

Mr White added: “The fitness staff at Liberty Gym would love to be doing online tutorials, but are unable to because of the rules of the furlough scheme.

“It is tough for the Richmond Dales Swimming Club and Triathlon Club, because they are unable to train using the pool.

“But, we are confident that we will get through this and see everyone on the other side.”

Richmondshire Leisure Trust manager Austin Gordon, who has also been fuloughed, and Janine Walsh, manager of Liberty Gym, are keen to get back to work when they are able.

Mr White added: “We are a big provider of leisure facilities in the area – last year we had around 250,000 visits and Liberty Gym has more than 600 members.

“The board of trustees has also had to revamp its business plan going forward, but there is still a lot to do because so much is unknown, as will be the case for other charitable organisations.”