Mansfield and Ashfield MPs pledge their support as soft play centre industry at breaking point

The boss of soft play centres in Mansfield and Hucknall says the covid-19 pandemic means his business could go under if it does not get more help.

Thursday, 23rd July 2020, 5:00 pm

As the coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to ease and businesses have re-opened, soft play centres must still remain closed and there is a fear that the industry may never recover.

Richard Sharp, owner of Playmania Mansfield and also Hucknall’s Squiggles Playden, is calling for more support for his industry from the government.

Mr Sharp said: “We welcome around 30,000 children at each centre every year, sadly since mid March we have been unable to welcome any, and our income has been zero.

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Protests have been taking place.

“As we now know every business can now re-open apart from soft play and nightclubs.”

He says the soft play industry is now reaching breaking point, with zero income since mid-March, and any grant money received swallowed up by rental payments and refunds to customers that had parties booked.

Centres still have been given no date to work to, and no indication of any further funding for the industry.

He said: “We are in a complete state of limbo, as we can’t plan anything without a date.

“Something has to be sorted out, we have to have guidance now.

"We have staff wondering how much longer we can afford to keep them on, in truth most will have to go at the end of August if no help is forthcoming.

“Soft play centres play vital parts within their local communities and are much loved by young families and must be saved.

“I just would like somebody to stand up for us and get us a date, or further help, as it is simply not fair that we are still not open, when it is entirely plausible for us to open in a Covid secure way.

“This can be easily sorted out either through re-opening or further funding.”

Mansfield MP Ben Bradley said: “I totally understand the major concerns from soft play owners, and as a father of young kids I know what a positive influence and major part of the economy that they are.”

He said he had raised the issue with the relevant figures in Government on numerous occasions, and would keep pressing ministers, adding: “In my view Government needs to either allow these businesses to get open asap with safety measures in place, or to offer further financial support.”

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson added: “I fully sympathise with the soft play industry and I am meeting owners of a venue this week to listen to their concerns.

"Obviously we have been through a very difficult time and lots of businesses are struggling and we must do all we can to support them. Just as important are the families that use these facilities who want to be able to take their children out to play with friends but we must make sure that it is safe to do so. I know that Government is looking at this and with schools due to go back in September I would hope that our play areas would be able to open but in a Covid safe way.”

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