New rules “endanger the future of soft play centers in England” | Business


They are a lifeline for parents: an affordable place for children to exercise and play. But as the sweet gaming centers prepare to reopen on Saturday, industry experts have warned that many will soon be closing their doors for good due to new government regulations.Janice Dunphy, chair of the Family Entertainment Centers committee of the UK Association of Amusement Parks, Piers and Attraction, said she was considering stepping down due to guidelines issued by the government under the Balppa name , but without consultation on a crucial additional section.

“We consulted with the government on the guidelines and were happy with the version we all approved. But when they released it last night, it contained this additional regulation that we had no knowledge of, ”Dunphy said.

“This section alone will lead to the closure of hundreds of soft play centers,” she added. “It’s a slow death for our industry. There is no way to survive this new regulation.

The controversial section of the operational guide for England concerns ventilation in the centers. To achieve sufficient airflow to protect customers from infection with Covid-19, he states, “The maximum occupancy of each indoor facility should be limited by providing a minimum of 100 square feet per person.”

Paul Kelly, Balppa’s chief executive, said the regulation at issue, which he only saw hours before being made public by the government, was inserted by Public Health England (PHE).

“We are not ventilation experts so we knew that PHE would put their expertise on the issue into the guidelines and their input would not be negotiable,” he said. “We will now pass this direction on to our members and, if any sticking points emerge, we will go back to government and ask if there is any possible movement.

Andrew Newton, owner of Twiggy’s Play in North Yorkshire, said the new guidelines mean his center can only accept 20% of its pre-pandemic number of paying customers.

“It’s totally devastating. This is madness and it will not be viable for soft play centers across the country, ”he said. “I’d be better off if I changed my business name to Dog and Duck and reopened as a kid-friendly pub, because then those regulations wouldn’t apply.”

Dunphy estimates that 40 software game centers have closed since the lockdown, with the new guidelines meaning that up to three-quarters of Balppa’s 900 members could close by October.

Maria Cantarella, owner of soft play centers Eddie Catz, the UK’s leading national operator, said the new regulations were the last straw for her business.

“I decided to go to the company that I have run for 15 years rather than being called by time,” she said. “This industry operates with already very low margins. Profits simply cannot be generated in this climate. ”

Rachel Howard, who owned a small independent soft play area called Goose in Harrogate, went into liquidation last month. “We had to close because of overhead,” she says. “But even if we hadn’t, that orientation would have been the end of us. It is absolutely not viable to operate under these new restrictions. ”

A spokesperson for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports said: “The government will continue to work closely with the sector to support them.” PHE declined to comment.


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