MAYOR UNDERSCORES ‘LIFE-SAVING' STANCE ON PARK CLOSURES
By fmttm
Saturday 25 Apr 2020 10:09:00
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Middlesbrough's high Covid-19 infection rate means the town's parks must stay closed to save lives, Mayor Andy Preston today insisted. So, begins his press release issued on Friday. Is he right in an approach contrary to the government's own national policy advice? Today The Times has an article showing through Ordnance Survey maps that the poor are being most disadvantaged by the closure of Albert, Pallister and Stewart Park and so lack of access to green space.

The Times says - Locking park gates at Albert, Stewart and Pallister has reduced publicly-accessible green space within walking access of poorer areas by 65% compared to 34% for more affluent areas. Is Andy Preston right? Is this closure of parks protecting people or actually harming well-being? If car parks were closed at the parks instead of park gates would that serve a better purpose? Here is the mayor's reasoning on why closing parks is protecting a population extremely vulnerable to the virus.

The mayor has highlighted a sharp spike in local cases that puts the town at heightened risk of spreading the deadly disease.

That means Albert Park, Stewart Park and Thorntree Park will remain shut until further notice - but around 90% of the town's open spaces remains accessible to the public.

The three parks have been closed since the Government's sweeping lockdown restrictions came into effect four weeks ago.

Mr Preston today moved to clarify Middlesbrough's approach in light of new national guidance - which he stressed was not binding, and did not take into consideration the challenges faced locally.

While the Government has recommended that public parks should stay open, Mayor Preston confirmed that the Council has been in contact with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to outline Middlesbrough's approach to officials.

And he thanked the town's residents for playing their part in helping to protect the NHS and stem the spread of the deadly Coronavirus pandemic.

He said: "We are in a crisis and it's literally life or death.

"I appreciate exercising somewhere other than a park is an inconvenience, but it's an inconvenience that is helping to save lives. That has to be a price worth paying.

"The momentum of Middlesbrough's infection rate should make everyone stop and think.

"Last week we were the 22nd most infected place by head of population - including London boroughs.

"A week on and we're the ninth most infected place. This is heading in completely the wrong direction and it's the main reason why parks must stay closed for now.

"The decision to close our parks has been made in an effort to save lives and reduce the pressure on our wonderful NHS heroes.

"The only thing we want people to spread is the message that social distancing is so important - the more we all do our bit, the sooner restrictions can be relaxed."

Mr Preston again pointed to the fact that Middlesbrough's parks account for only a small proportion of the town's green space, while there were many other areas equally suited to exercise.

Examples of accessible open spaces include Fairy Dell, Hemlington Lake, Clairville Common, Teessaurus Park and Linthorpe Cemetery.

Mayor Preston added: "Parks were deliberately designed as places where people could meet up and linger. Right now that's not safe.

"It's vital for Middlesbrough that people are exercising only and not congregating.

"We're lucky to have so many wonderful open spaces where people can go for a walk, run or bike ride and get some air, and equally importantly take care of their mental health

"Using other spaces and not the parks is a tiny sacrifice to save lives - and I'm enormously grateful to everyone for playing their part in that."

For the latest local updates and information, visit www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/covid19

For information on local help and support, visit Help Boro at www.middlesbrough.gov.uk/helpboro or call Middlesbrough Council's support line 01642 729777

The latest advice from Government and Public Health England can be found at https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus



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