The operators of North Devon Leisure Centre and Tarka Tennis Centre have been given a £40,000 bailout by North Devon Council to cover its losses during the coronavirus lockdown.

The leisure centre, tennis centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Fitness Centre are operated by Parkwood Leisure and have been closed along with all other public leisure facilities since March 20.

The urgent decision request, made by the council’s contracts delivery manager Mark Kentell, and signed off on April 30, said although Parkwood had furloughed 97 per cent of staff and reduced utility consumption to a minimum, the contract was losing up to £40,000 each month.

Mr Kentell warned that the without the £40,000 boost to cover the losses, which was drawn from an existing leisure centre maintenance budget, Parkwood would not have been able to enter into a new interim contract for the leisure facilities which started on May 4.

Other scenarios would have seen the centres closed indefinitely, re-tendered or run in-house by the council.

Mr Kentell told the Gazette the council is doing everything it can to ensure it can still provide leisure services when the crisis is over.

He said: “At present we are having to work with Parkwood on a month to month basis to examine contract losses due to the enforced closure of facilities, and assess the council’s ability to provide financial assistance.

North Devon Leisure Centre. Picture: Andy KeebleNorth Devon Leisure Centre. Picture: Andy Keeble

“This is becoming increasing difficult in light of the current crisis, but we are doing currently everything we can to ensure that NDC is in a position to continue to provide leisure services when the crisis is over and facilities can open safely.

“Many other leisure contracts are in a similar position throughout the country.”

The decision will be presented to the council’s strategy and resources committee when it meets virtually on June 1.

Parkwood will operate the new leisure centre, which is set to open in February 2022 next to Tarka Tennis Centre.

Among the facilities will be Devon’s first ‘endless ski-slope’, suitable for indoor skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing, which will be fitted out by a specialist contractor.

The building will also house a 25-metre eight lane swimming pool plus a four-lane learner pool, together with moveable floors, spectator seating and competition timing system.

A design for the new North Devon leisure centre set to be built in Barnstaple in 2020. Picture: Watson Batty ArchitectsA design for the new North Devon leisure centre set to be built in Barnstaple in 2020. Picture: Watson Batty Architects

Other features include a sports hall with four courts, a large gym, three exercise studios, two with virtual technology.

There will also be an indoor soft play and outdoor play area, and a new reception area and cafe serving both the leisure centre and Tarka Tennis Centre.