Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
The majority of parks and gardens in East Devon are set to be reopened – but will close again if people don’t use common sense and abide by social distancing guidelines.
East Devon District Council last month decided to close parks to help people abide by social distancing measures following the Government’s lockdown announced.
The council added that the decision was balanced by the fact that East Devon is a rural district with good access to the countryside and open spaces.
But following the statement made by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on Saturday, April 18, who said: “People need parks. That’s why I have made it clear to councils that all parks must remain open,” the council has reviewed its initial decision.
The cabinet have agreed that the majority of the district’s large or easy to access park sites should be reopened to the public, as soon as possible, but some small sites with restricted access/egress points will remain closed in order to support Government’s social distancing guidance
Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon’s Portfolio for the Environment, said: “We believe we can safely re-open large parks sites, such as Phear Park in Exmouth, with access points, open borders or space that allow people to easily use the site for exercise while maintaining social distancing.
“We will re-open these sites by removing barriers and closure signage starting Thursday, April 23. It will take us a couple of days to complete this.
“This will mean that the majority of our parks will be open, giving residents ample green spaces within which to exercise responsibly. Social distancing signs will remain in place and we will remind the public to observe these measures.
“If people do not observe social distancing or congregate in our Parks, we may be forced to close them all again.
“So we are putting our trust in our public and asking them to use common sense, follow the two metre social distancing recommendations and generally take responsibility for staying safe.”
A council spokesman added that as it would be difficult for the public to maintain robust social distancing in the following sites, and so as not to increase the risk of viral transmission, these sites are to remain closed.
- Manor Gardens – Exmouth
- Gunfield Gardens – Exmouth
- Queens Drive Space – Exmouth
- The Glen – Honiton
- Connaught Gardens – Sidmouth
- Blackmore Gardens – Sidmouth
- Seafield Gardens – Seaton
- All play areas
- Outdoor gym equipment
- All skate parks
The spokesman added: “Due to restrictions in East Devon staffing levels, resulting from the virus lockdown, the council will not be able to maintain the parks and gardens to the same high standards as they were before closure.
“However, from a positive environmental perspective, East Devon has already started a programme of actively re-wilding areas, encouraging biodiversity and wildflowers and cutting grass less frequently and this will continue. Those using the parks for exercise can expect to see meadow length grass with access paths cut through it as a more prominent feature.
“The council will only be able to conduct visual walkover inspections of its sites as staff are focussed on maintaining core operations services, self-isolating or restricted from travelling due to health reasons.”
Further guidance on what people should do when accessing East Devon’s parks can be found at: https://eastdevon.gov.uk/parks-gardens-and-recreation/parks-and-gardens/coronavirus-information/