On Saturday, British government local government secretary Robert Jenrick released a statement calling on local authorities to keep parks open during the coronavirus blockade.
The department of mr. Jenrick oversees local government in England only, but his statement prompted some local authorities in Wales to strengthen their position on why they chose to limit access to green space during the blockade, especially given that other local authorities have chosen to keep the parks open.
This is an explanation of the situation regarding the opening of parks and green spaces currently across Wales.
What guidance has the Welsh government provided regarding parks?
The Department of Local Government and Public Services, which oversees local government in Wales, has given more freedom to local authorities in Wales on how they choose to act on parks and whether they should remain open or not.
A spokesman for the Welsh government said: “The regulations do not require the closure of local parks, but local authorities can close them if they believe it is necessary to avoid gathering people. This is a decision for local authorities as they have local knowledge to understand where closure is needed. “
In short, no matter what the Welsh government or the British government say, the decision on what happens with parks and public spaces is up to local authorities.
Talbot of Neath-Port
Vale of Glamorgan
What did the local authorities decide?
Of the 22 local authorities in Wales, 13 have physically limited access to all parks and green spaces or have asked people to stay away from them.
All these local authorities indicate health and safety as one of the main reasons behind their decision.
A spokesman for the Caerphilly council, one of the local authorities who have decided to close all parks, said: “Following Westminster government advice issued last Saturday regarding the reopening of parks and cemeteries in England, the city council of the Caerphilly County has confirmed that, in the interest of public security, its parks, play areas and cemeteries will remain in their current closed state until further notice. “
Blaenau Gwent’s council and Vale of Glamorgan’s council both stated that they had been invited to review their positions, but that they had refused to change positions.
Coronavirus cases confirmed across Wales:
Councilor Neil Moore, leader of the Vale of Glamorgan council, said: “I appreciate that many residents would like to see the facilities reopened, as was recommended in England, but this is a decision that needs to be made locally and I believe it would therefore undermine everything. the work done to keep us safe. “
The Vale of Glamorgan also cited problems with people traveling “far beyond Vale” to visit its parks and coast, something that has been reported elsewhere in Wales, particularly in Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Gwynedd.
Of the three city councils in Wales, only one has currently restricted access to its parks and green spaces: Newport.
Explaining this decision, a spokesman for the Newport city council said: “This decision has not been taken lightly but we hope people understand that the priority must be to keep people safe above all else.”
Why are parks and green spaces open elsewhere?
Unlike Newport, both the Cardiff and Swansea councils have decided to keep parks and green spaces accessible to the public.
A spokesman for the Cardiff council said: “Many Cardiff residents live in apartments or do not have access to a garden. Our parks offer an important space for people to exercise and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors for a short time during the epidemic. “
To ensure respect for social distances, the council said that its park team and South Wales police are conducting joint patrols.
Like Cardiff, Swansea has also kept its parks and green spaces open. Although it originally closed them last month, the council reversed this decision, instead asking that people use only parks and beaches that are within walking distance and where it is possible to adhere to social removal measures.
The health benefits of parks and green spaces are a factor recognized by local authorities across Wales.
One of these authorities is Powys, which originally closed all its parks last month but has since reopened them.
How people in Wales are facing coronavirus blockade:
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A spokesman for the Powys council said: “Powys members of the public who visit their local park to maintain their physical well-being should follow the social drive, but crowds of more than two will be missing.”
Even some local authorities who have restricted access to parks and green spaces recognize that this entails a cost for the well-being that these spaces offer. For example, the Ceredigion council, which restricted access to its parks, stated that their decision “does not come lightly”, but must keep areas where people can gather in closed groups.
Other local authorities have chosen to limit only a few parks, such as the Ynysangharad park in Rhondda Cynon Taf, or some park areas, such as Cardiff, which has closed only the children’s play areas.