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Councils delay reopening of playgrounds despite lockdown lifting

The relaxation of measures in England means they can open on July 4 if they are safe.

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Activity equipment in the children’s playground area of a park in London is closed off, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (Yui Mok/PA)

Activity equipment in the children’s playground area of a park in London is closed off, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (Yui Mok/PA)

Activity equipment in the children’s playground area of a park in London is closed off, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (Yui Mok/PA)

Some councils are delaying the reopening of their playgrounds, despite the Government saying they can be used from this Saturday.

Outdoor playgrounds and gyms were included in Boris Johnson’s list of facilities that would be allowed to open from July 4 if they are safe, as lockdown measures will be relaxed across England.

However, some authorities are saying they will not be ready to open this weekend citing safety and public health concerns.

In Bedford, the Council say consistently high rates of infection have contributed to the decision to stay closed and they are not yet able to give a date for their reopening.

Councillor Charles Royden, portfolio holder for environment said: “We know this will be disappointing for many families, and it is not a decision we have taken lightly.

“Our top priority is to keep people safe and help slow the spread of the virus and we are asking people to work with us, and respect this ongoing closure.

“When we have the outcome of the deep dive investigation with Public Health England and the Joint Biosecurity Centre, investigating why rates here are not falling as quickly as other areas, we will look again at this decision and see if it is safe to open our parks.”

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Activity equipment in ae children’s playground (Yui Mok/PA)

Activity equipment in ae children’s playground (Yui Mok/PA)

PA

Activity equipment in ae children’s playground (Yui Mok/PA)

It is a similar scenario in North Hertfordshire where the district council say they want slides and swings open “as soon as practical” but also cannot give a date.

A statement posted on their website on Tuesday said: “Unfortunately we will not be reopening any of our playgrounds or outdoor gym equipment on July 4.

“The health and safety of our residents and visitors is our priority and therefore we need time to consider the practical implications of the recently issued Government guidance on reopening.”

Other councils including Gateshead, Harlow and Rother District Council have also said they may not be ready to open their playgrounds within the next few days.

The chairman of the National Obesity Forum told PA: “The disaster is that they were ever closed in the first place because that has had a great effect on children’s activity levels.”

Tam Fry added: “Missing maybe one or two weeks while they’re bringing their playgrounds up to speed isn’t going to cause that much damage, but it’s been going on for a long time in many councils and children and their parents are saying ‘why do we bother to go down to the playground’ and by that they then deny the chance for their children to run around freely, play with each other and burn off the calories.”

Government guidance on playgrounds describes them as “a valuable community asset” that give children “a stimulating and tactile experience to exercise and learn through play”.

PA