Gazette letters: Coronavirus and outdoor spaces
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No idea how things will have progressed between writing this and your publication date, but here goes on a couple of things, write Mary Pimm and Nik Wood, Gore Road, Hackney.
During the good weather those people free to take a constitutional as their outside exercise often chose the open spaces of their local parks.
Ours is Victoria Park. But on Thursday, March 26, Tower Hamlets Council and the Metropolitan Police announced that because we’d been too many for the space they’d close it. Too many people so we’ll lock them out of 218 acres of open space. The logic of this was obvious that afternoon, when all nearby pavements and the canal towpath were jammed packed, shoulder to shoulder with people.
We’ve been quite able bodied up to now so do our shopping at shops and supermarkets but we thought we’d get online buying and delivery sorted in case we needed it.
However we discovered that our supermarket has closed its system to new applicants, as have most of them apparently.
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Two examples of panic and obstruction by big organisations.
The shopping issue is being addressed by a spontaneous organisation of neighbours who won’t be able to replicate the full service but will be responsive to the needs of the housebound.
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The distancing issue should be addressed by the recruitment of laid off workers and locked out students as park wardens with suitable training and powers to sort things amicably.
Just two examples of how our society’s authorities and enterprises have let us down by lack of preparedness and how we ordinary citizens are having to cover for these problems by our own emergency initiatives. All summed up by the government’s plea to us to “protect the NHS”, because they haven’t.
As those responsible for some of London’s key public open spaces, this weekend’s forecast for glorious sunshine would normally have been just the news we were looking for write Mark Camley, executive director, Parks and Venues, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park; Shaun Dawson, chief executive, Lee Valley Regional Park Authority; Colin Buttery, director, Open Spaces Department, City of London and Andrew Scattergood, chief executive, The Royal Parks.
Nothing sums our great city up more than parks and riversides packed with people socialising, exercising, sunbathing, boating, eating, drinking and simply enjoying the freedom and space to do what they want with their families and loved ones.
Of course these are very different times. Never could we have imagined that, following government’s guidance, we would be asking people to think about how they are using these spaces. There is no doubt that our physical and mental health benefits from daily exercise and access to nature, at this difficult time. We are quickly finding that you can’t just take that for granted.
Many people in London are not lucky enough to have a garden, many families are living in very cramped conditions. Our public spaces are becoming more and more important as the restrictions go on. As some parks have had to take the difficult decision to close down it is essential, that we all work together in making sure we can keep as much open as possible.
Please don’t ignore the very clear instructions – go out once a day, stay as local as possible, don’t gather in groups, keep your two metre distance, take litter home, and keep dogs under control and on a lead in areas where you are told to do so.
It’s clearly not ok to have picnics, sunbathe, cycle where it is not allowed or confront those putting themselves at risk to keep these spaces open.
By working together and being sensible we can make sure that our great parks and riversides play their vital role in keeping Londoners as fit and healthy as possible during these challenging times.
We are proud to look after the world’s greatest open spaces, please do everything you can to keep them open for everyone who needs them more now than ever.
Haringey Council has shut down car parks in Alexandra, Finsbury and other parks to ensure only people on foot can visit to exercise each day, writes Martin Hewitt Save Autism Services Haringey.
This blanket approach ignores the needs of people with physical or learning disabilities who can only access parks to exercise using vehicles driven by their support workers.
Disabled residents are being discriminated against by the council who have as part of their lockdown measures shut the few remaining day centres left following the austerity cuts of four years ago.
People on foot continue to use parks but people limited by their disabilities are excluded.
Instead they are confined to home with their family carers and support workers, placing additional strain on families trying their best to care for disabled relatives under trying circumstances who can exhibit difficult and challenging behaviours.
Why can’t the council instruct staff manning park entrances to allow cars with disabled passengers with blue badges to enter?