The entrance to the South Lake Leisure Centre
A number of councillors have urged Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough to further explain to the public how the local authority is tackling the problems arising at the South Lake Leisure Centre (SLLC).
The matter was raised at a meeting of Council’s leisure and community services committee on Monday, September 13.
Councillor Catherine Nelson told the committee residents have been in touch with her to complain they have purchased a family ticket but cannot get access to the centre’s facilities.
“This is not a good news story for our centre,” said Cllr Nelson.
“I am aware we are not operating at full capacity, I am aware that COVID-19 has had an impact but what I think we need to do as a council is send a message out to the public that we are aware of the issues and are working on them.
“We need to let them know that where and when we can sort this, we will.
“We should be letting the public know we will be having a focused meeting on this, this week.
“This centre is very special to all members and officers and we want it to work and the best way for that to happen is to respond swiftly to the issue members of the public are bringing to us.”
Council’s head of leisure and community services, Jonathan Hayes, said Council is looking to decrease the limitations on services offered at the SLLC and confirmed this will be discussed at this week’s behind closed doors meeting.
Councillor Darryn Causby asked if the restrictions currently in place were required by legislation or if they were self imposed.
He was informed it is a combination of both the legislation and Council’s own risk assessments designed to ensure the safety of both the public and the leisure centre’s staff.
Councillor Causby then indicated he would be content for the matter to be discussed at the behind closed doors meeting but stressed the need for Council to communicate with the general public.
“My concern is our communication around this has not been good,” he said.
"We should be setting out a time line and a plan to get us back into more relaxed conditions and that needs to be a priority.
“I am happy to work through that at a clinic but we need to be setting out a very clear time line and making sure the messaging on this is loud and clear so that the public is under no illusion as to what is happening.
“Effective communication is what avoids the inbox full of emails.”
Acknowledging it is a “delicate balance to strike” to minimise the risk to staff, the committee’s chair, Councillor Keith Haughian said he was of the view it would be important for members to “drill down into these issues” at the private meeting.
Councillor Margaret Tinsley told the chamber the last working group meeting tackling these issues was very useful but warned that as restrictions eased, the problems may grow.
“I feel that since we have started to reduce these restrictions it has snowballed all of these problems,” said Cllr Tinsley.
“My concern is that as we are lifting the restrictions it will give us even more problems.
“I would just like to see how we are going to manage that and deal with it.”
Alderman Ian Burns then asked if family tickets are still being sold before Mr Hayes acknowledged important points have been raised that can be discussed in detail at the private meeting.