A COUPLE who run a Trowbridge soft play centre have called for a cut in VAT to help the hospitality and leisure industry to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Barry and Lucy Coombs run Baloo’s Softplay in Silver Street, Trowbridge.
Barry said: “We pay 20 per cent VAT on all revenue, which could be crippling for many that are trying to bounce back following the pandemic.
“However, without extra government help the future is very uncertain. We speak for all soft plays and play centres across the country who are struggling financially.
“The Baloo’s team have put their heart and soul into building this business and we will not go down without a fight.” 
Mr Coombs is writing to his local MP, Dr Andrew Murrison, to enlist his support.
The British Association of Leisure Parks Piers and Attractions, of which Baloo's is a member,  are also lobbying MPs nationally.
The couple have been forced to take out a bank loan to survive and say more than 18 jobs could be lost if Baloo’s  is forced to close for good.
Barry, 39, of Castle Mead, Trowbridge, said: “We were forced to close on March 23 but the weeks leading up to it were noticeably quieter. We have no idea when we will re-open.
“We have been given no additional help from the government apart from the furlough scheme and business rates relief.
“We soon learned that no government grants were available to us as we had a rateable value of over £51,000 which meant the only option made available by the government to secure the future of the business was to take out a bank loan.
“We have no income at all and Wiltshire Council have told us we won’t get any financial help at all and that we’re in our own. All because our rateable value is over £51,000. 
“We have contributed massively over the last 18 months to the community.”
“We have brought in hundreds of people a week to the town centre from surrounding areas, most of whom probably wouldn’t have come had Baloo’s not been there.  
“I feel the town centre has benefited massively from having us here and with no idea when we will be able to open our doors the future is looking bleak.”
Barry said the couple restored a derelict and unused building that had been empty for years, one of the largest in the town centre. 
“We are a small family-run business, not a chain. Our insurance company do not cover us for this forced closure, so we will not receive any help from them,” he said.
“Play centres are the hub of most communities for children where they can play and develop all kinds of skills in a safe and stimulating environment.
“Research suggests that play centres meet the government’s recommendation for daily physical activity regardless of age, gender or ability.
“Many parents say it is the only place they can come to relax while their children socialise and practise exercise without even realising. 
“Play also helps massively with mental health, which at this time is something that many children are struggling with due to the isolation caused by the lockdown.
“We have joined a highly regarded organisation, the British Association of Leisure Parks Piers and Attractions, where many businesses from across the UK like zoos, attractions and soft plays can find support, information and advice on all aspects.
“Companies like Merlin and Paulton’s Park are also members. 
"We are working with other similar businesses to try implement the best safety measures and procedures for when we can reopen to the public, which as it stands, we still have no idea.
He added: “We want to reassure our customers and staff that we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of them and their children for when we are eventually able to reopen. 
“The Baloo’s team has always worked hard to provide a clean and safe environment.”