The coronavirus pandemic has left Harlow Council with ‘no other option’ but to close the town’s paddling pools for the rest of the year.

Under current government rules playgrounds and outdoor swimming pools cannot be opened and social distancing restrictions remain in place for outdoor exercise.

However, the council has confirmed it will not reopen the pools this year regardless of any changes to government rules.

Brian Keane, chief Executive of Harlow Council, said: “It’s with regret that we have taken the decision to not open the paddling pools this summer. Given the coronavirus outbreak and the public health advice, there is no other option at this time.

“Every year leading up to opening the pools there are routine preparations that we have to make along with recruiting and training new staff. Therefore we have made the decision now rather than continue any of that work.

“The pools are always busy places and we just don’t know what the situation will be in July with opening these types of facilities and what social distancing restrictions will be in place.”

While the pools remain closed, Harlow Council will undertake upgrades approved earlier this year.

The works will include installing barrier fencing and surface repairs to improve health and safety, the provision of toilet facilities and changing rooms and seating areas for parents and carers.

One of the oldest pools, Staple Tye, will be improved and become a trial project with new access to toilet and changing facilities and a new splash park alongside the paddling pool.

The improvements will be funded from a separate budget which will be safeguarded to pay for the works ahead of next year.

Mr Keane added: “We know that this decision will be disappointing for families, but public health is our number one priority and we must do what we can to limit the spread of the virus. This is the right decision at this time and other councils have also taken the same decision.

“While the pools will remain empty this summer, parks across the town can still be accessed by families for exercise and relaxation.”

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