SOFT PLAY centres in East Lancashire and around the country are facing further uncertainty as the possibility of another lockdown looms over an industry that has already faced hard times due to the unprecedented coronavirus crisis.

Centres had to close wholesale back in March when the full lockdown was imposed.

Some were just starting to reopen after the government gave the go-ahead a few weeks ago but the latest tightening of restrictions, forbidding children’s parties and friends meeting up across Lancashire, is a new blow.

Soft play centre bosses are now fearful of a second enforced period of closure if the Government tightens the rules further.

Nicola Nuttall, of Giddy Kippers in Nelson, said: “The whole industry is on its knees at the minute, so many businesses, good businesses that were profitable have gone under in the past month. It’s such a shame.”

Speaking of the support the industry has had, Ms Nuttall added: “It’s been really poor, we’ve made use of the furlough scheme but in Nelson where we’ve been under local lockdown we’ve not had enough additional support.”

Ms Nuttall was clear about what needs to happen to save the much-loved soft play industry. She said: “We need an extension to the furlough scheme and industry specific support. It feels like as an industry we’ve been singled out and it’s children who have suffered the most, having things taken away from them.”

Melanie Jones, of the Beach Hut Centre in Great Harwood, echoed these sentiments.

She said: “It’s a massive concern because even though all our tables are spaced out and we’ve been doing table services as the regulations state, the issue is with people mixing from different houses.

“Because when children are playing on a climbing frame, a three-year-old and a five-year-old don’t know how to social distance. It really hit us hard when we couldn’t open over the summer, so we’ll just have to see what the prime minister says and then take it from there.”