Swimmers in North Devon and Torridge are faced with a wait before they are able to get back in the pool.

Torrington PoolTorrington Pool

Leisure facilities, including gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities were cleared to reopen from July 25 by the Government.

However, council-owned facilities in Torridge remain closed, and in North Devon, a phased reopening is expected to last until September, which is when pools are set to reopen in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe.

Torridge District Council (TDC) said it has delayed the reopening of its facilities in the district due to issues implementing social distancing measures, as well as a lack of compensation for lost income from the Government.

The council said it is working with 1610, which operates Northam, Torrington and Holsworthy’s pools and leisure centre, to develop proposals to ‘reopen facilities safely and on a commercially viable basis’.

TDC leader, Councillor Ken James, said he hoped facilities could open ‘safely and viably in the very near future’.

He added: “The council is very aware of the importance of the facilities for many residents in maintaining their health and as a social hub within the community.

“We will progress matters with urgency and also await in hope for further government announcements broadening their support as this might expedite reopening.”

Ricky Hayes, head of sports activities and aquatics at 1610, which also operates South Molton pool, said: “Operating leisure facilities in rural areas is always a commercial challenge and the current circumstances have exasperated the situation.

“1610 has a strong background in running rural leisure facilities and we are confident that by working collaboratively with the authority positive steps can be taken to find a safe and sustainable model to offer leisure facilities to the Torridge community.”

In North Devon, swimming pools in Barnstaple and Ilfracombe will not reopen until September as part of a phased reopening of North Devon’s leisure facilities, which began on July 25.

Parkwood, which operates North Devon Council’s North Devon Leisure Centre, Tarka Tennis Centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Gym, is undertaking a step-by-step approach to reopening.

The artificial grass football pitch at Tarka Tennis Centre is open from Saturday (August 1), a week after the gym and classes at North Devon Leisure Centre and Ilfracombe Pool and Gym, and tennis courts at Tarka Tennis reopened.

A second phase will see the return of some sports hall activities and a reopening of squash courts at North Devon Leisure Centre.

The reopening of pools at Ilfracombe and North Devon Leisure Centre are pencilled in for phase three in September.

Exact dates are yet to be confirmed.

Leader of North Devon Council, Councillor David Worden said: “I am so pleased that leisure facilities are allowed to reopen once again.

“Exercise and fitness are extremely important for not only physical health, but mental health as well.

“Parkwood takes hygiene measures extremely seriously and has put in place rigorous cleaning and safety measures to help safeguard all their customers.”

Measures in place include the installation of hand washing and sanitiser points, protective barriers for staff, marked routes for social distancing, and a reorganised programme of activities, all of which must be pre-booked, with no walk-ins allowed.

Centres are asking visitors to avoid going if they have coronavirus symptoms. They should bring their own full drinks bottle, an exercise mat if required, and regularly wash or sanitise their hands as well as sanitising equipment when asked to do so.