A LEISURE centre in Flintshire which is serving as a Covid-19 field hospital could potentially start to re-open to the public by the summer, it’s been revealed.

Deeside Leisure Centre in Queensferry has been closed since the coronavirus pandemic began in March last year and was later converted into one of three Rainbow hospitals in North Wales.

Built to boost capacity at the region’s main hospitals, it received its first patients in November and is also currently being used as a vaccination centre.

However, with cases locally now lower than they were during the second wave of the virus in January, politicians have sought answers on when the leisure centre will be restored for its original purpose.

A senior Flintshire Council officer has said some facilities could potentially be made available from as soon as June, depending on the requirements of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board.

He also provided assurance that people will still have access to the same services as before, including the Olympic-sized ice rink.

Addressing the issue at a virtual meeting of councillors held yesterday (Wednesday, March 10), Flintshire Council’s chief officer for housing and assets, Neal Cockerton, said: “The Rainbow hospital will move out, the internal areas will be refurbished or brought back to a standard that is suitable for leisure provision and it will continue on its journey as a leisure centre.

“That’s always been the case from the start of this.

“The issue about how quickly that is going to happen, the point I’d make there is it’s a main regional vaccination centre at the moment and will continue to be.

“The conversation is around how long we’re going to have to wait to get the facility back, but that’s not anticipated to be long because we’re also already planning an exit strategy for the Rainbow hospitals.”

When pushed further for an exact date, he added: “That’s based on conversations and agreements with Betsi Cadwaladr.

“It may be June or July time in terms of bringing it back to a leisure centre – there or there abouts.”

The local authority previously revealed long term ambitions to completely redevelop the leisure centre.

Options being considered for the future of the near 50-year-old building could see it being replaced by a new, smaller facility.

But the council’s chief executive has stressed that leisure services will restart at the site as soon as the health board vacates it, regardless of the plans.

Discussing the centre at the meeting of the council’s community, housing and assets scrutiny committee, Buckley councillor Dennis Hutchinson said: “Deeside Leisure Centre is an enormous building which has been well used up until the pandemic.

“It was right that it became a Rainbow hospital and I have no qualms with that at all.

“But is there any mileage in mixing and matching if there is a need to continue with the Rainbow hospital at any time in the future?

“We all think that there will be a time when there will be an impact on Deeside Leisure Centre and for us to bring some of it back into use.”