Hemel Hempstead MP backs DJ’s Play Park campaign to rescue indoor play centres

The soft play centre has been closed since March

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 10:59 am
Updated Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 11:03 am

Hemel Hempstead MP, Sir Mike Penning, visited DJ’s Play Park in Jarman Square to show his support for a national campaign to rescue indoor play centres.

He met Mark Whittington, who owns the soft play centre with his wife Helen, and Play Centre manager Ceili Hatchett and discussed the problem and the safety measures put in place.

Indoor soft play centres are currently not able to reopen with two thirds of the industry facing closure by October as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Owner Mark Whittington with Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning at DJ's Play Park

Indoor soft play centres are one of the last industries to have no proposed opening date.

In the last three weeks at least 15 have closed their doors permanently and it is feared that if they don’t open before the end of the school holidays many more could follow.

During his visit to DJ’s Play Park Sir Mike saw for himself the effort made to put numerous Covid safe processes in place.

Sir Mike, who along with many other MPs is supporting the campaign to get soft play centres open again, said: “Indoor play centres play a vital role in the national fight against childhood obesity. Children are exercising without realising it.

One of the floor signs at DJ's Play Park

“Play centres such as the fantastic DJ’s Play Park at Jarman Square are well aware of the importance of social distancing, safety and PPE and have invested heavily in ensuring the necessary restrictions are in place.

“I absolutely support the campaign to get them open again, or at very least offer them an additional financial lifeline.”

Sir Mike is one of over 100 MPs who have co-signed a letter to the Prime Minister in support of the campaign.

Owner Mark Whittington said: “I am delighted that Sir Mike is supporting the campaign and am very grateful for his time today to come and talk to us.

DJ's mascot

"Whilst we appreciate the government support in the form on the furlough scheme this is tapering off, and with high ongoing overheads and no opening date to work towards the situation is untenable.

"Recent initiatives such as the VAT reduction to 5 per cent, and ‘Eat out to help out” are good news for hospitality businesses that can trade, they don’t help those that cannot.

"We have invested in all the necessary measures to minimise risks and ensure people can follow social distancing rules, we would operate under a much reduced capacity, with rigorous cleaning regimes.

“There is strong evidence to demonstrate that indoor play centres can make an important contribution to the government’s strategy in tackling obesity.

"This is in addition to the benefits that play centres offer to children’s mental well being, cognitive development and social skills.

"We strongly urge the government to help our valuable industry avoid a cliff edge.”

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