Coronavirus regulations were amended by the government to permit halls to re-open from 4th July. Confirmation of this was only given in the week prior to 4th July and the specific advice on how this affects halls was not received from Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) until the end of that week. That advice runs to over 30 pages and is very detailed.
An examination of that advice reveals that there is a considerable amount of work to do, and preparations to be made, before a re-opening would be practical as safely and securely as possible. Also, many of the activities undertaken by our regular users are still not permitted in indoor spaces under the amended regulations. These include indoor sport and exercise classes such as badminton, zumba, carpet bowls, dance classes, yoga and pilates. In addition, we would not be able to permit any live performances involving drama, music or choirs or large groups. Although the government again further relaxed the lockdown rules on July 8th the sports and exercises allowed are only those taking place outdoors. No further information has been forthcoming in regard to halls and indoor activities.
Given all of this it is unrealistic to expect the hall to re-open before September. This will give time to establish a COVID-19 Risk Assessment, to get the agreement of our insurers to the re-opening, to purchase the necessary PPE and cleaning materials, to establish and explain to users the Special Conditions of Hire during the COVID-19 emergency, and to ensure that the hall is thoroughly cleaned before re-opening.
Whilst a further wait before many groups will be able to resume their activities is disappointing, I hope people will appreciate the volume of work that now falls upon a small number of volunteers to ensure that the eventual re-opening can be achieved as safely and successfully as possible. We will continue to monitor government announcements and will respond to the advice provided by ACRE in response to these.
Chairman – East Coker Village Hall Management Committee