Mid and East Antrim’s leisure centre gyms will reopen to the public from this Saturday.
The decision was taken by Council as part of the phased reopening of indoor leisure facilities in the Borough.
A decision on the reopening of swimming pools and other facilities will be taken by Elected Members at the next meeting of Full Council in early December.
Last month, the Northern Ireland Executive announced a month-long range of measures aimed at tackling the spread of the virus in Northern Ireland, including a ban on indoor sport involving the mixing of households, as well as the cessation for four weeks of fitness classes.
The Executive also said no unnecessary travel should be undertaken when the new restrictions came into effect on Friday 16 October, and this was key to Council’s decision-making when considering which services should temporarily close.
Following two emergency meetings of Council’s Group Party Leaders, the decision has was taken to shut Ballymena’s Seven Towers Leisure Centre, Larne Leisure Centre and Carrickfergus Amphitheatre from Friday 16 October.
While Executive guidance enabled pools and gyms to remain open, this was only in the context of individual training sessions and did not permit group sessions or the mixing of households.
It was therefore not financially viable for Council to provide these two services given the poor level of uptake to date since reopening, coupled with the high running costs of ensuring appropriate levels of staffing and safety measures required to protect the public and our staff.
The four-week circuit breaker is due to end across Northern Ireland on Friday 13 November.
In advance of this, the decision was taken to reopen Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s gyms but to keep pools closed at this time, due to the low demand and high running costs.
Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston, said: “The health and wellbeing of our community and staff is crucial and that’s why as a Council we have, and continue to, do everything we can to tackle the virus and its impact on our lives, our communities and our local economy.
“As previously stated, the number of residents using our leisure centres since reopening earlier this year was extremely low, reflecting decreased public appetite for these services at the current time.
“Against that backdrop, we have to take the decisions we have to protect public funds and safeguard services moving forward.
“The return of our gyms will be welcomed by those who use the facilities, and we continue to roll out a comprehensive suite of virtual fitness classes and training sessions, which are proving popular with residents.
“We thank our citizens for their continued understanding and patience as we all work together to overcome this virus, which has caused such huge disruption to our daily lives and devastated so many.”
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