A report says the number of people who have returned to swimming at a local leisure centre is “a significant cause for concern”.
An overview and scrutiny committee at Lichfield District Council is due to examine the figures on user numbers at Burntwood Leisure Centre next week.
A report from Cllr Richard Cox, cabinet member responsible for leisure, revealed that August had seen a 71% drop in user numbers since the same time last year.
While measures implemented due to coronavirus have restricted access to some facilities, the figures revealed that less than half of the capacity of the pool was being used.
Cllr Cox said the numbers were a cause for concern.
“The re-introduction of swimming seems to have been less well received [than other activities].
“It is important to stress the dramatic changes to the delivery of swimming – all sessions now have to be pre-booked, the main pool is principally lane-swimming only and the programme is sporadic initially providing 45-minute sessions followed by hour-long breaks to ensure effective cleaning.
“Swimmers will need some time to adjust to these changes.
“However, a 71% drop in participation alongside 56% spare capacity is a significant cause for concern, especially given the high cost of swimming provision.
“The swimming programme has changed from September, seeing the reintroduction of both school swimming and lessons, which is intended to drive significant swimming throughput.”Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council
The financial impact of Burntwood Leisure Centre’s reduced capacity in the wake of the coronavirus crisis was also outlined by Cllr Cox.
He said money coming into the centre from users had fallen below the expectations of Freedom Leisure, which operates the facility on the council’s behalf.
“Income generated for the first full month of operation at Burntwood was just under £27,000, which was lower than Freedom Leisure’s pre-opening estimate of £73,000.
“The main reason for the shortfall was due to lower than expected swimming income.
“Expenditure has also been higher than Freedom Leisure’s pre-opening estimate – this principally related to additional staffing costs that were not covered by the Job Retention Scheme.”Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council
Discussions on date for reopening of Friary Grange
The council has previously outlined how the behaviour of users at Burntwood would help inform the plans to reopen Friary Grange.
Although a site for a long-term replacement leisure facility in Lichfield has been earmarked, a short term refurbishment scheme is also due to take place at the existing centre in the city.
Cllr Cox said the plans for an October reopening of Friary Grange were still on track.
“The council has reaffirmed its commitment to Friary Grange and that the centre will reopen at the end of October.
“A date is currently being agreed with Freedom Leisure.
“The procurement process to appoint a contractor for the refurbishment project has now been completed.
“September will see an announcement of both the preferred contractor and also the anticipated start-on-site date.”Cllr Richard Cox, Lichfield District Council