SWIMMING lessons will continue at local authority-run leisure centres in St Helens after the council sought "urgent clarification" from the Government on Tier 3 Restrictions.

St Helens Borough Council said tonight that it had since reviewed the "imposed closure" of local leisure centres because of the latest coronavirus restrictions.

In a statement the council said that after "careful consideration of the latest guidance", it has been able to provide a range of youth activities, including swimming and put forward a programme of outdoor and online activities for residents.

The local authority added that private gyms and leisure centres "may also be able to operate with similar online and outdoor activity offer" and advised them to look to the latest guidance online on the Government website.

There has been an outcry among fitness enthusiasts about how Tier 3 restrictions are forcing the closure of gyms and the knock on effects to people's physical and mental health.

What indoor facilities will run in across St Helens and Newton as part of the exemptions

• Karate, judo and netball community clubs (all under 18s) at Sutton Leisure Centre and Queens Park Health and Fitness

• Youth and children’s swimming clubs at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Swim Squad at Queens Park Health and Fitness

• Swimming lessons for children at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Queens Park Health and Fitness

• Primary school swimming programme at Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness and Queens Park Health and Fitness.

Can parents stay and watch inside?

No, this is the council's response.

"To ensure compliance with Government’s Tier 3 restrictions, no parents will be allowed to remain in the building for these children’s activities.

"The centres will only open their doors for these specific sessions and will remain closed at all other times."

What else is on offer?

Council leisure centres will provide an extensive timetable of online classes and training sessions available free of charge.

This programme will be a mixture of live and pre-recorded instructor-led virtual sessions, while Go Active Running Clubs are able to continue as normal.

What about outdoor sessions?

The council's leisure service will also be introducing:

• Live instructor-led outdoor fitness classes at Queens Park and Newton-le-Willows Health and Fitness centres - "risk assessed and in line with social distancing guidelines".

These will include a range of activities, from High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Spin, boot camp and cardio classes, with a maximum of 30 people.

• Live outdoor Holistic classes such as Tai Chi

• Live personal trainer sessions using the outdoor gym equipment at Queens Park and Mesnes Park (maximum of five participants plus instructor).

• Go Active Walking Club

What is the council saying?

In a statement Councillor Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public health, leisure, libraries and heritage, said:

“The restrictions imposed on us by Government have caused a great deal of confusion and frustration. The non-negotiable closure of leisure centres and gyms is just one of many requirements on which we’ve urgently sought much-needed clarity.

“This is especially concerning given the fact that Lancashire have been placed in the apparent same Tier 3 but can seemingly keep their gyms and leisure centres open. Of this we are demanding an explanation from Government.

“In the meantime, we can now announce that we’ll be able to retain and provide an amazing programme of activities for our residents, pulled together at a moment’s notice by our incredible leisure services team.

“Sports, health and fitness activities are proven to contribute significantly and positively to the participant’s mental and physical well-being, so it is vital that we maintain access wherever we can, and sustain so many valuable community clubs whose existence could be threatened by a second shutdown.”