Durham County Council has set out how it will safely reopen venues and reinstate services affected by the national lockdown next week.
The government confirmed this week that County Durham, along with other parts of the North-East, will be subject to Tier 3 restrictions when the national lockdown ends on Wednesday, December 2.
This means those who live, work and travel to the county will need to adhere to the highest level of restrictions to help reduce the rate of coronavirus infections in the area.
Under these restrictions, certain services and venues required to close during the national lockdown are allowed to reopen so long as appropriate safety and hygiene measures are in place.
Durham County Council has announced the following changes to its services after the introduction of Tier 3 restrictions:
• All Durham County Council and 1Life-operated leisure centres will reopen, although group exercise classes and activities will not take place while the county remains in Tier 3. Gym and swim members with plans that incorporate exercise classes will be given the option to freeze their membership for one month. This will be reviewed in line with any changes to Government guidance. A virtual Group Exercise (GX) offer has been developed to provide an alternative to fitness classes and will be launched on 2 December.
• Swimming pools operating at council leisure centres prior to the second lockdown will reopen. It is hoped that Aqua Learn and Time to Swim lessons will resume in early 2021. Peterlee swimming pool, which has been closed since 23 March, is set to reopen later this month following an agreement with the operator. The pool at Consett Leisure Centre remains closed to allow for essential repairs and members will be kept informed.
• Grassroots sports can resume for under 18s and those with disabilities indoors and outdoors. Adult outdoor sporting activities are allowed however the council is awaiting specific guidance from the National Governing Bodies of each sport and will contact clubs in the county to provide an update as soon as this is received.
• Sports changing rooms can reopen with the same measures in place before the lockdown.
• For the time being, Durham County Council libraries will remain closed for browsing. However, the Pick and Collect service will continue to operate. Library members from across the county can borrow books using the service, with collection points located at branches in Barnard Castle, Consett, Newton Aycliffe, Shildon, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Crook, Peterlee, Clayport in Durham City, Chester Le Street, Spennymoor, Seaham and Stanley.
• Chester-le-Street, Durham City and Seaham markets will reopen from 2 December, meaning all nine of the council’s markets will be open.
• Gala Durham and Empire Consett will remain closed.
• Bishop Auckland Town Hall will remain open as a collection and drop off point for the library Pick and Collect service. The café will remain closed while the county is in Tier 3.
• The Great Hall at Durham Town Hall is undergoing planned maintenance work and so the venue will remain closed until the New Year.
• Killhope Museum is closed over the winter in line with the usual seasonal closure.
• Customer access points as well as One Point hubs and family centres will remain closed.
• Durham County Council parks, playgrounds and allotments across the county will stay open, but cafés at Hardwick Park and Wharton Park will offer a takeaway service only.
• Household Waste and Recycling Centres will remain open.
• Weddings and civil partnerships can recommence at register offices, but numbers will be restricted as per national guidance.
• Funerals at Durham and Mountsett Crematoria can take place but are limited to 15 people.
Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council, said: “Since the start of the pandemic, we have prioritised the essential services upon which our residents most rely, such as support for vulnerable adults and children, refuse collections and helping community groups and businesses through this challenging time.
“Yet, the need to protect the public from the threat of coronavirus and adhere to national restrictions, has meant there have been times when we have had to take difficult but necessary steps to close venues and suspend certain services.
“As we emerge from the second national lockdown, we are pleased to be able to reopen some of these venues, particularly our leisure centres, which make an important contribution to the health and wellbeing of our communities. We have worked hard to ensure these venues are Covid-secure to keep our staff and customers safe.
“Unfortunately, we are not able to reinstate all of our services fully or reopen all of our venues. However, if we all continue to do our bit to reduce the spread of coronavirus by sticking to the guidance set by the Government and Public Health England, hopefully restrictions will be eased and we can reinstate more services in the future.”
Information about how services are affected is available on the council’s website at www.durham.gov.uk/coronavirus.