Tower Hamlets Council will reopen 218 acre Victoria Park on Saturday 11 April with reduced opening hours of 8am to 4pm – as long as we behave ourselves.

On Wednesday 25 March, the council together with Tower Hamlets and Hackney police decided to close Victoria Park when ‘some visitors’ failed to observe the government’s social distancing rules.

The council has failed to respond to requests by the East End Enquirer to put a number to ‘some visitors’.

New control measures in place

The council states that it has developed a number of ‘control measures’ to find a way to reopen the park to ‘help support the mental health and wellbeing of residents’.

But Tower Hamlets Council also says that ‘the health and safety of residents will remain a priority and failure to comply with these measures and the government’s guidance on access to green space and social distancing could result in fines or closure of the park.’

So that’s us told.

These control measures are:
– Reduced opening hours from 8am to 4pm
– Only exercise outdoors once a day – such as a run or walk, alone or with other people from your household
– Leisure cycling is only allowed for children under the age of 12 who are accompanied by an adult
– Exercise = keep moving → get home, stay at home
– No gatherings, sunbathing, picnics, sports games
– Stay two metres away from other visitors at all times
– Use of playgrounds, toilets, gym equipment and benches is prohibited
– Give way to people exiting the park
– Keep left on pathways and avoid narrow ones
– Keep dogs on a lead and on the grass, where possible
– Treat staff, police and others with respect
– Anyone who enters Victoria Park when it is locked does so at their own risk

Love Vicky Park? Then take responsibility for its use

“Victoria Park reopening in these challenging times requires all of us who love the park to take responsibility for using it in ways that are safe,” said Richard Desmond, Chair of the Victoria Park Friends. “We are pleased that the council have found a way to reopen the park safely and introduced new control measures to support this.”

“We ask that people don’t travel long distances to Victoria Park and use a park closer to home where possible”

New police powers

The police in England have new powers to instruct people to return home and issue fixed penalty notices starting from £60 which will double to £120 for second time offenders, and double again with each further offence.

Those who refuse to pay a fine can be taken to court where magistrates can impose unlimited fines.

Police are expected to apply common sense and discretion but can arrest people where it is deemed proportionate and necessary.

East End Enquirer Comment

The decision to open or close Victoria Park, or any of our other green spaces, is an immensely difficult one.

Keep it open – some people complain. Close it – some people complain.

Reality is that local residents need access to Vicky Park during this lockdown period to retain their mental health. Few live in houses with gardens, most live in cramped flats in tower blocks.

Vicky Park is their garden.

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