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High Life Highland plans route map to reopening

By Tom Ramage

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High Life Highland has initiated the first tentative steps of its own plans to fit in with the Scottish Government's route map out of the Covid-19 crisis.

It following on from the latest announcement yesterday on restrictions being lifted by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and a subsequent board meeting of the charity which runs the region's leisure, culture and sports facilities.

High Life Highland Chief Executive, Steve Walsh.
High Life Highland Chief Executive, Steve Walsh.

Ian Ross, chair of the High Life Highland board, said: “A substantial amount of work has gone on before and during lockdown to protect customers, staff and the wider services provided by the charity.

"That work will obviously continue in the forthcoming weeks and months to implement the Scottish Government’s route map.

"In addition, I am aware that HLH has many hundreds of staff currently on furlough leave and they have been using their work-related skills and qualifications to volunteer and assist with essential work in communities across the Highlands.

"On behalf of the board, I would like to thank the many HLH staff who have made such an important contribution over the last number of months."

Steve Walsh, chief executive of HLH, said: “I am grateful to our board of directors for their support, direction and guidance.

"We are delighted to be able to start talking about our plans to reopen some of our venues in line with the guidelines previously set out and highlighted by the First Minister.

"Our teams have already been working hard in the background preparing to bounce back from Covid-19 and begin to welcome our customers into facilities once again."

Mr Walsh continued “Whilst we are all keen to get back to some normality as quickly as possible it is not going to be like turning a light switch on. We are planning a phased approach that will encompass thorough cleaning regimes, social distancing and hand sanitising measures as part of the daily programme.

"To accommodate the new measures and provide a safe environment for our customers to enjoy means that our opening hours will have to be adjusted accordingly for the foreseeable future.”

The Scottish Government’s route map update has relaxed opening legislation to include more types of businesses which is fantastic news for customers but brings its own challenges.

The charity is already considering introducing waiting lists for new high life members as due to social distancing measures capacities at venues are likely to be restricted at a time when relative demand is expected to be high.

The phased recovery process is being led by the charity's Corporate Programme Manager, Simon Swanson who reports directly to the charity's executive team.

Speaking about the recovery programme, Mr Swanson explained, “The situation facing us at the moment is very fluid with guidance being re-evaluated frequently, as a result we have to be flexible in our approach to reopening in terms of timing and feasibility.

“The announcement today means we can start looking at outdoor locations for example Inverness Botanic Gardens and Nursery and how we will be able to operate the site at some level and still meet the current guidelines.”

Mr Swanson concluded, “We are already working on what Phase 3 of the route map might look like for the charity and have identified that the increased use of technology will be vital to the process of reopening, allowing customers to book spaces and help us manage capacity within sites to ensure an enjoyable experience.

"We will monitor the guidelines closely over the coming weeks and will fully implement any further steps that may be required to protect people using our gym space for example prior to opening.

"We will be providing further updates through our website and social media channels once we have confirmed dates and timescales.”

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