FREEDOM Leisure has moved to quell anger regarding accusations it favoured profits over people in Powys following the reopening of gyms and leisure centres.

These facilities are currently closed – as are all other businesses deemed non-essential – as Wales is in the midst of a second national lockdown due to coronavirus.

But, following the initial lockdown announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in March, Powys pubs, restaurants, high street shops and leisure centres had slowly been creeping back towards some semblance of normality.

Freedom Leisure – which has a contract overseeing the running of all council-owned leisure and gym facilities in Powys – was accused by parents of school pupils and community sports and fitness groups of casting them on the sidelines while they attempted to recover losses by putting profit-making ahead of people’s mental health and well-being.

But the organisation has responded, explaining that if some local groups experienced delays in getting back to their regular booking slots, it was due to reactivating all of its 13 sites in Powys in such a short period of time after restrictions were lifted in June.

“From speaking with our team in Mid/South Powys I can confirm that clubs have now either returned to our sites, have an agreed start date or we are awaiting a booking confirmation from them,” a spokesperson for Freedom Leisure said.

“These clubs include gymnastics, karate, judo, swimming, outdoor and indoor football. If there is specific club you are aware of that hasn`t been able to secure a booking, let us know and we will investigate further.

“As you can imagine, to reactivate 12 of the 13 Powys sites within four weeks (the one remaining Powys site – Bro Ddyfi Leisure Centre in Machynlleth – was due to reopen at the end of October) under such limiting Covid criteria meant that we had to proceed on a phased basis, and meant the re-starting of a wide range of activities had to be done carefully and in line with all national governing body risk assessments and guidance.

“Freedom Leisure needed assurance that all clubs and bookings could be undertaken in full compliance with Covid regulations which also limits numbers and scope of activities and space. This also applies to children’s activities.”

Groups in Brecon, Builth Wells and Llandrindod Wells were reported to have been experiencing difficulties getting back into their routines over the summer, while many children’s indoor activities had been cancelled – leading to increased fears of a detrimental impact on Powys residents’ well-being and mental health.

The confusion was also a worry for school pupils and their parents, with no indoor PE sessions allowed in Builth, leaving GCSE students facing more uncertainty regarding their exam assessments and grades, which also included them relying on achieving merit via coaching sessions with local sports clubs.

The Freedom Leisure statement added: “As the Welsh Government regularly review and relax certain leisure operating restrictions this has enabled us to invite many, if not all, of our clubs back to our centres across Powys.

“Freedom Leisure are a not for profit charitable trust but we have to balance this with a commercial approach to ensure we meet our commitments to our Powys County Council leisure contract.

“Due to restrictions on space and numbers allowed in different areas of the facilities to ensure safety and social distancing is maintained, the centres have had to consider how they will deliver activities to incorporate the range of customers that we have, which includes community groups.

“While we await the Welsh Government to publish their guidance on schools PE delivery we are advised that all schools must follow the government’s leisure operating guidance. For any specific issues relating to curriculum delivery then this may be best directed to Powys County Council’s central schools service.”