South London parks to remain open this weekend but police warn against non-essential trips

By Sian Bayley, Local Democracy Reporter

Parks will remain open across South-west London this weekend to help residents exercise and take care of their mental health, but police have warned people against non-essential trips to enjoy the sun over the bank holiday.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police’s South West Basic Command Unit, which covers Wandsworth, Richmond, Merton and Kingston, said some people continued to ignore government advice in the fight against coronavirus last weekend.

He said: “Whilst the vast majority of people adhered to the government advice to remain at home, a number did not.

“We received calls of people sunbathing in parks, having picnics and playing football. In response, our officers did what they do best – they spoke to people.

“They explained the restrictions, dispersed groups and directed people to return home where appropriate. We police by consent and we will continue to do that.

“As we go into the bank holiday weekend, officers will continue to patrol our open spaces and parks, and continue to work with the public. We encourage the public to remain at home unless it’s for their daily exercise, to shop for essentials, to travel to work or for a medical need.

“Officers will engage with anyone breaching the guidance, explain why the restrictions are so important, educate them as to what they need to do and encourage them to go home. Enforcement will be a last resort.”

They have asked anyone who witnesses groups gathering in public to report it to police via the Met website.

A spokeswoman for Richmond Park said it was “busy” on Saturday and Sunday morning last week, but most people were following government guidance and keeping their distance.They added: “The parks are strictly open for exercise only. No matter how sunny it is, please don’t be tempted to come for a picnic or to soak up the rays.

“We’ve already sadly seen the closure of some of London’s largest parks because people have been flouting government guidance and have been gathering in groups for activities other than exercise.

“Please stay local and don’t drive to the parks, all our car parks are now closed.

“Stay at least 2m from others, don’t gather in groups and use the parks for exercise only.  No sunbathing. No picnics.

“These are challenging times. Please respect others, especially at the park gates, please be kind to the workers who are working hard to keep the parks open and safe, and please be kind to the police, who are trying to save lives by enforcing the government’s advice.

“We know how crucial it is for people’s physical and mental well-being to have access to these valuable green spaces, and we’re doing everything we can keep them open for those who need them. But we’ve got to work together to follow the rules or we risk losing them completely.”

Richmond council also added that it is working closely with its parks security contractor to educate residents on social distancing and encourage them to continue with their exercise and move on.

A spokesman said the authority has no current plans to close any parks at the moment.

Kingston council likewise confirmed it does not plan to close parks at this time, but will continue to review the situation.

Top: Richmond Park


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