Ewan Jackson

Dates for reopening of further local facilities and services announced

Scottish Borders Council and Live Borders have today outlined dates for the phased reopening of further services across the region as the COVID-19 situation continues to improve.

Both organisations are working in close partnership as a regional COVID recovery plan is developed, focused on restarting services, promoting health and wellbeing, supporting vulnerable people, reinvigorating the local economy and seizing new opportunities.

Both Live Borders and the Council recognise how much customers, communities and visitors value these services, which range from swimming pools to museums. The jointly agreed reopening plan acknowledges this while also taking into account a range of other current factors, which include the vital support being provided through Live Borders facilities and their staff for the critically important COVID vaccination programme, ongoing Test and Protect, and where services cannot be delivered through alternative means.

The services being prioritised for re-opening will also help to:

  • Support getting communities active and, consequently, healthier again following the lockdown period;
  • Support the local visitor economy by attracting those taking staycations, and
  • Generate income for Live Borders, thereby helping to subsidise the delivery of a wide range of the charity’s other services.

Key reopening dates: 

  • Week commencing 26 April
    • Health and fitness sites, including Gyms and Swimming Pools
  • 17 May
    • Jim Clark Motorsport Museum
    • Heritage Hub, Hawick
  • 31 May
    • Mobile Library Service
  • 28 June
    • Start of a phased reopening of Museums and Galleries
  • 16 August
    • Indicative start of a phased reopening of Libraries, Library Contact Centres and standalone Contact Centres. Earlier opening may be possible in certain circumstances
  • 30 August
    • Halls and Community Centres operated by Live Borders
  • TBC
    • Live Borders facilities which are currently supporting COVID-19 vaccination and testing programmes

In order to comply with the strict social distancing, sanitising, and pre-booking operating requirements, services will not be able to reopen to pre-COVID opening times or capacities.

Depute Leader of Scottish Borders Council, Councillor Simon Mountford, said: “I am delighted that we can announce this positive news today.  A significant amount of effort and planning has gone into developing this joint reopening schedule.

“While there are clearly grounds for optimism as the COVID situation continues to improve, we must remain cautious about what may lie ahead; ultimately, we will not reopen services until we are absolutely confident that they will be safe for customers and staff.

“Live Borders’ continued support for the vaccination programme and Test and Protect must be a top priority and this does impact on what can be reopened initially. A range of services will, therefore, continue to be delivered through alternative means. This has been the case for many of our services throughout the pandemic; they have operated successfully and with high customer satisfaction.

“Important lessons were learnt following the reopening of some services last summer, when restrictions allowed, and these have informed the reopening plan announced today. We will keep Borderers updated at every stage as we continue to move ahead with our recovery plans and further reopening of services.”

Galashiels Library reopened for an eight-week period from August 2020 but demand for its services was extremely low, although there continued to be high levels of usage of alternative library services.

The robust and proven alternative provisions of Connect & Collect – where library books can be ordered online and collected from the mobile library – the comprehensive eLibrary catalogue and the restart of the mobile library service will be available to customers until the start of a phased reopening of library buildings from 16 August.

Until Contact Centres reopen, the Council’s Customer Advice and Support Service will continue to be available online through the Council website and over the phone on 0300 100 1800, as it has been throughout the pandemic. These contact methods and staff provide the same services as those delivered in person in Contact Centre and have successfully handled more than 70,000 additional customer interactions whilst Contact Centres have been closed.

A range of building works and improvements are being carried out in Contact Centres over the coming weeks, and a phased reopening will allow these to be completed before facilities reopen to the public, most likely by appointment initially.

Registration of births, deaths and marriages has continued in a limited manner during lockdown. Expansion of those service and the manner in which they are offered will follow Scottish Government advice on the easing of COVID restrictions from May 2021 onwards.

Ewan Jackson, CEO of Live Borders, said: “We are here for the community of the Scottish Borders and I am delighted to be able to publish our plans for reopening.

“It has been a very difficult year for everyone, and we know how important our services are across the region. I am also incredibly proud of the role Live Borders and our staff have played in fighting the pandemic over this past year, including in the crucial ongoing vaccination and Test and Protect programmes.

“I hope that publishing our plans reassures all users of our return, and while all services may not reopen at the same time or as quickly as we may like, we have to ensure that our financial restart position is protected and sustainable.

“Reopening our Swimming Pools and Leisure Centres over the course of a week is a logistical challenge, and brings many complexities from returning staff from furlough and deployments, to ensuring staff and public safety in our buildings. I would ask everyone for patience and understanding over this period.

“The recent appointment of our new Head of Library Services demonstrates our commitment to developing a sustainable and first class library service across the Borders, and we are excited to see the future of our libraries develop.

“I look forward to welcoming all our service users back over the coming weeks.” 

Tim Patterson, Director of Public Health, added: “The fight against COVID-19 must continue, and the support that Live Borders is providing to NHS Borders through the rollout of the COVID vaccine and with our local Test and Protect contact tracing team has been invaluable and is greatly appreciated.

“I am delighted that Live Borders is now also able to press ahead with the reopening of health and fitness sites, which will once again play a key role in supporting the health and wellbeing of our communities, particularly after this latest period of lockdown.”