WITH no reopening date set for soft play centres, a Warrington-based business is facing an uncertain future as it appeals to save the family entertainment sector from permanent closure.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, The Jungle in Pinners Brow Retail Park employed more than 30 people from the nearby area, providing soft play and parties for children.

Now, after being forced to close at the start of lockdown, it is struggling to stay afloat and is unable to access a Government grant due to its high rateable value.

Sarah Lott and her husband Paul, from Culcheth, opened the soft play attraction almost 15 years ago, after spending hours in similar centres with their young daughter.

"It was on one of these many visits that it occurred to me that while we loved the idea of a play centre, the ones available at the time weren’t well maintained," Sarah recalled.

"They were often rather dark and dreary and, most importantly to us parents, they didn’t serve a cup of proper coffee or homemade cake.

"So we set about developing our own concept - clean, safe and fun play facilities with a great café, serving fresh-bean coffees and, of course, delicious cake!"

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The Prime Minister recently announced that most remaining leisure settings could reopen from August 1, but soft play centres, along with nightclubs, must stay closed, with no indication of when they may be able to reopen their doors.

"We are surprised that other leisure attractions such as trampoline parks, bowling alleys and outdoor play parks, which are rarely cleaned, have been allowed to open," Sarah said.

"Without a reopening date we really need support from the Government in order to save the soft play industry, a sector that we know plays a vital role in our children’s social and physical development, their mental health and wellbeing and of course family bonding."

Sarah and Paul have put together plans to ensure The Jungle can reopen safety when it gets the green light.

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Sarah explained: "These plans include reduced numbers, timed play sessions, socially distanced tables, removing the balls in our ball-pool and of course plenty of sanitisation stations around the building.

"We already have an excellent reputation for cleanliness, but we will be enhancing our cleaning regime and are also looking at investing in a fogging machine which sprays the whole building with an antibacterial solution which, when dry, creates a barrier which continues to work for up to 30 days.

"While we agree it’s difficult to socially distance children who are playing, the mats in the play frame itself are 1.2 metres square, so children can be encouraged to stay at least one metre apart from each other."

All visitors will also be required to join The Jungle's club and are then logged on entry, meaning the site can easily assist with the Government Track and Trace scheme.

The Jungle recently met with several other centres including Jelly Beans, Fun2B, Treetops and Little Buddies, to discuss ways they can work together to ensure they are all safe to reopen.

A survey by the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions (BALPPA) has revealed nearly two-thirds of indoor play centre could close by October without additional support.

BALPPA fears the closures will have a knock-on effect to surrounding businesses and will disproportionately affect areas that rely on tourism for revenue and employment.