Fury over Vicky Park lockdown as angry families call Ombudsman over ‘illegal closure’
PUBLISHED: 17:12 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 21:39 07 April 2020
© Rehan Jamil
Angry members of the public are taking legal action over the closure of Victoria Park during the pandemic which they claim is unlawful.
Both Tower Hamlets Council which manages the park and the Met Police commander in charge of policing the area have been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman and the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the continued closure as an emergency measure dealing with Coronavirus.
The protest has been sparked by families on the Hackney side of the historic open space.
“We all support the lockdown to beat this awful virus,” campaigner Richard Bingley said. “But we’re forced to walk dogs, jog and cycle into more compressed space with the park being closed.
“This draconian action is likely to increase our infection rate. It’s counter-productive and contravenes existing law, so we have reported it to the regulators.”
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Mr Bingley, ironically a university lecturer in crisis management and planning, who lives in South Hackney close to the park, recently returned from the Czech Republic as it went into its own lockdown and found their measures “brutal” which effectively put the entire population into “house arrest”.
“Thousands of us say we shouldn’t be punished,” he added. “Victoria Park is a large open space. People misbehaving should be ticketed by police rather than the rest of us being banned from 230 acres of open parkland.”
But Vicky Park could soon be reopened, it has emerged. The mayor has admitted he didn’t want to close it in the first place.
John Biggs told the Hackney Gazette: “I’m unhappy with it closed and want it reopened hopefully by the weekend, but we need to be confident in public behaviour. It was closed for operation reasons. Our park rangers and the police advised that it was best to close because of disorderly behaviour.
“But I am now looking at ways to reopen it as long as people maintain social distancing. The public I feel has now learned how important it is to keep their social distance in tackling Coronavirus.”
The protesters who have set up a Parks Action group insist the closure was “a step too far” and accused the authorities of “over-reaching their legal powers” by shutting parkland that has been open to the public since 1845 and are calling for police instead to “ticket the tiny minority who are being irresponsible”.
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