Community Centre’s evolving strategy in the Covid-19 era

, September 10th 2020


MBCC was closed to its regular user-groups on Friday 20th March 2020 as a safety measure in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. Between 6 and 16 July it was let to St Leonard’s C of E Primary School, Balderstone for 9 days for them to teach up to 30 children after the school’s own premises were unable to accommodate all pupils whilst conforming to social distancing recommendations. Children were arranged into two 15-member “bubbles” comprising learners from Years 3 and 4.

The school requested use of the building for the whole of the autumn term: Wed 2 September – Fri 18th December (half-term Mon 26 – Fri 30 October) with an option to continue into 2021: Mon 4 Jan – Fri 26 March (half-term Mon 15 – Fri 19 Feb) subject to the degree of coronavirus threat at that time.

The volunteer management group of the Centre agreed in principle to try to facilitate the “Return to School” initiative whilst preparing the building and designing appropriate new procedures to be presented to the various activity groups that had been using it up until March. A consultation exercise was carried out in June 2020, designed to gauge the intentions of the various activity organisers using the Centre prior to the exclusion and thereby formulate a revised timetable. It asked specifically whether they intended to resume their activity in September.


National picture

What was to become a succession of evolving guidelines and rules affecting Centre management and users was first published on on 17th July and included:

From 25 July, subject to rates of transmission closer to the time, sports facilities and venues, including indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios, indoor swimming pools and indoor water parks, can open.

On Wed 9 Sept Government announced new and simplified rules to take effect from Mon 14th Sept:

   All family and social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal from Mon 14 Sept

   10 days isolation required (up from 7) after testing positive or displaying symptoms of Covid-19

   The two-metre rule reduced to one-metre social distancing in indoor settings, with mitigation: mitigation includes the avoidance of face to face positioning, good ventilation, use of face covering, use of a screen, limiting the duration of period of close proximity, talking more quietly.

Should an individual display the symptoms of Covid-19 infection (from 9/9/20 now simplified: high temperature/new cough/loss of smell & taste) they must seek a test. There is an online procedure at 


Local picture

Mellor Brook lies in the Ribble Valley Borough Council area which is subject to standard measures to counter Covid-19 outbreak in common with the rest of England. However, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, along with other east Lancashire authority areas borders Ribble Valley and is subject to more stringent rules and prevented use of indoor gyms and other indoor sporting centres, bowling alleys, the skating rink known as Planet Ice, Blackburn and conference venues throughout the Borough. In addition, there was an instruction to wear face masks: in shops, libraries, the museum, all places of worship, health centres & hospitals and hair & beauty salons. This was to drive down the infection rate in the town which was significantly higher than the national rate. When national easements were announced for 15 August, these restrictions were kept in place for Blackburn with Darwen and extended to neighbouring authorities of Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Preston and Rossendale. One aspect applicable to Blackburn: “You should not socialise with people you do not live with in other indoor public venues (inc community centres). You may attend these venues with people you live with (or are in a support bubble with), but should avoid interaction with individuals or groups from other households. If you run such a business or organise events on their premises, you should take steps to ensure people do not interact with people they do not live with, in line with COVID-19 secure guidance )

60% of those attending St Leonard’s come from the Blackburn with Darwen area.

The local newspaper, The Lancashire Telegraph’s lead story on 10 September detailed the difficulty in booking a test with most applicants unable to book one within 100 miles of Blackburn.


Managed return

The volunteer management group of the Centre has drawn up plans for a managed return to the Centre for it’s former regular users from early September, alongside the provision of space to be used as extra school classrooms for St Leonard’s C of E Primary School. A significant aspect of that plan is this risk assessment document designed to be updated according to changes in the law, advice and rules relating to England as well as operational changes that the Centre management see fit. It is modelled on: 

   National guidance from The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s document “COVID-19:    Guidance for the safe use of multi-purpose community facilities”

   St Leonard’s C of E Primary School, Balderstone School Risk Assessment document in respect of its use of the Centre 6 – 16 July 2020

   teacher feedback from use of the Centre in that period

   Common sense


Separation of groups.

Maximum of 2 independent groups to occupy Centre at any given time

Maximum of 30 people in the hall at any given time where they are sedentary and wearing a face mask (giving each occupant an average of 5.5 square metres space); or a maximum 15 where the main activity involves movement by participants (e.g. dance, pilates, yoga – 11 sq m).

Maximum of 7 people in committee room at any given time (giving each occupant an average of 4.28 sq m space)

Originally a ceiling of 10 people allowing 4.25 sq m per person was applied to the upstairs room. As of 29 August when unusable furniture had to be moved into this room, there has arisen a need to reappraise this figure)

Start times of activities to be adjusted to allow staggered starts.

Centre users must leave premises asap at end of their activity

No parents, friends or non-participants to enter building

All visitors will access the building via the front door into the atrium (the glass door on the glass fronted porch accessed from Whalley Road). When leaving, they must use the door in the store room nearest Whalley road which opens onto the lawn on the Whalley Road side of the building. This system will require both incomers and outgoers to use the narrow path at the gate out of the lawn area. In order to  preserve 2 metres social distancing, any person leaving will be allowed right of way to pass onto Whalley Road before any incoming user enters the building.

Allocation of lavatories: groups using hall to use Ladies & Gents loo’s near the back door, groups using front room or upstairs room to use loo between kitchen and hall.


Personal protective measures:

Anyone entering the building must use the alcohol-based sanitizing gel from the dispenser sited at the entrance door.  Spare stock of a similar gel shall be carried by the organiser of the activity in the event of Centre dispensers running out.

Sneezing should be into a paper hanky supplied by the organiser of the activity. Used hankies to be put in a disposal bin containing a bag within a bag. Bags to be emptied and removed by organiser at end of session and taken off the premises and new bags placed in the bin. Stocks of replacement bags will be sited next to bins.


Signs of infection:

Before entering the building those attending must be questioned by the organiser. Any person meeting the criteria below will not be allowed to enter:

   Anyone feeling unwell: a new continuous cough, a loss or change to their normal taste or smell

   Anyone sharing a household where someone is confirmed as infected or showing coronavirus symptoms

   Anyone in the clinically extremely vulnerable* category

   Following the displaying of coronavirus symptoms# by any Centre user, that user will be asked by the activity organiser to leave and self-isolate for 14 days; the Centre will close until completion of a deep clean and Centre occupants found to be present at the time will be traced by the tracking and tracing agency. Up until 17th August, responsibility for this was assumed by Public Health England. From 18 August, PHE was to be combined with NHS Test and Trace to form the National Institute for Health Protection, under a new leadership structure headed by Conservative peer Dido Harding as interim CEO. The new NIHP would focus on infectious disease control, particularly the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This institution is yet to be up and running and enquiries made of RVBC have yet to determine procedure following the identification of a case on our premises. Those at risk of having been exposed to the patient were to be advised to book a test via a telephone booking service: 0300 303 2713. I tried this on 29 August and waited over 10 minutes in a queue before ringing off. Blackburn with Darwen Borough set up its own independent system – this might warrant a call on 01254 585995 9 – 5 Mon – Fri). There is an online procedure at: 



Cleaning regime:

In July, it was envisioned that, in addition to organisers conducting wipe downs at the end of their session (see organiser’s checklist below), the Centre would take responsibility to clean prior to use by Balderstone School and at the end of School’s occupancy prior to regular user-groups. It was hoped then to concentrate all activities other than school classes over Monday night to Tuesday night by transferring Toddlers to Tuesday morning. Thus Brownies at 6.30 on Monday evening would begin 8 consecutive sessions concluding with WI at 10 pm Tuesday night before the school returned to have exclusive tenure for the rest of the week.  The Balderstone School Head agreed to move a school-based early learners group to Mondays from Tuesdays to offset the shift. Agreement from Mellor Brook Toddlers Group was sought but not found.

Detailed aspects of cleaning sessions were then written into a model risk assessment document and a general principle was adopted that, wherever a group conducted activities involving physical exertion in contact with the floor, they would be required to vacuum and mop the floor ready for the subsequent user.

Whatever regime the school adopted for the demarcation of lavatories (pilot scheme required pupils to use a given lavatory according to their bubble group, rather than their gender) would revert back to that use which is described in “separation of groups” above. Signage to be checked and changed accordly. At the moment, activity organisers and school staff will assume this responsibility. The Centre management will attempt to arrange the timetabling of activities to allow for the least amount of work to be conducted by the Centre cleaner (as of 26th July 2020, this had still to be achieved).

The Centre’s cleaner was instructed to undertake training of substitute cleaners and report this back to the volunteer management committee. In the event of illness or holiday or other absence of regular cleaning staff from either school or Centre, this provision will then be used.

To provide adequate windows of time for cleaning, some regular Centre clubs and activities will be unable to conduct their activity at their former time. A guiding principle of policy adopted by the Centre management promotes the rescheduling of the timetable in order that as many of its regular users who have indicated a wish to return in September, use the Centre in consecutive periods before the building is then given over for use by the school leading to the minimum number of change-overs.



Users of the main Hall and Atrium where physical exercise comprises any of the activity will be required to vacuum and mop the floors to minimise the risk from aerosol droplets emitted during exercise, play etc. The hall measures 15m X 11m. A ceiling of 30 people wearing masks in the hall at any given time was decided at the committee meeting of 12 August. This will be reduced to 15 where the activity involves movement (Pilates, Yoga, Dancing, etc. – this equates to a personal space of 3m X 3.3m to allow for bodily movement)



this is out of bounds to all staff but the Centre’s official cleaner, John Evans. Visitors can bring their own refreshments but will need to take home drinking vessels and food wrappers.



The centre removed the red fabric-covered chairs (approximately 90) and stored them in the upstairs room on Sat 29th August. Where seating is required, modern purple folding chairs stored on the rack in the store room nearest to Whalley Road are to be used. These need to be wiped down at the end of the session. School to bring and use 20 of their own plastic moulded chairs.



use paper towels or the hand driers (in the large toilet block at the rear of the building). Organisers to remove used paper towels at the end of their session. 



Good handwashing practice, site-specific signs including entrances, exits, appropriate gender-designated lavatories, any one-way traffic areas. Some notices applicable to school users might need to be replaced when handovers occur e.g. when lavatory use is changed from male to female/vice versa


Shared equipment:

visitors should not share equipment. Organisers must insist that each participant uses his/her own exercise mats, musical instruments, note-taking materials, etc. 


Storage space:

This is always at a premium. Organisers were asked to remove any equipment and other property formerly stored at the Centre. Beavers removed materials from the store room off the hall. Unusable seating removed to upstairs room. This should make enough room for school desks, chairs and other items to be stored out of the hall ready for other Centre user groups. There will need to be efficiently organised take-downs and set-ups each time users change.


Risk Assessments

The Centre management requested that all groups, produce a risk assessment document for authentication at least 2 weeks before their intended return. These would demonstrate how all requirements shown in THIS document will be implemented. The activity group will need to have their document scrutinised by the Centre management before it would be allowed admission.

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