Redbridge playgrounds fenced off as officers face abuse

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Redbridge Council has fenced off playgrounds and outdoor gyms to get people to stop using them as parks officers face abuse from the public.

The measure is intended to prevent the spread of Covid-19, which can survive on plastic for 36 hours and metal for 12 hours.

Previously, the playgrounds and gyms were surrounded with hazard tape but this was repeatedly removed by some park users.

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal has warned that local councils may be ordered to close parks if social distancing guidelines are not followed.

He said: “Sadly, some of our parks officers have been verbally abused by people, after they simply reminded them of the importance of social distancing and the need to stay clear of play area areas.

“This is unacceptable. Our staff are working hard to keep people safe and deserve respect.

“We know parks are a lifeline for many of our residents, but they are only open to provide people with areas to exercise. They are not to be used for hosting picnics, barbecues, gatherings or football matches with friends, as we have seen on previous weekends.

“Our enforcement officers are now patrolling all parks daily, dispersing gatherings and advising people to adhere to the Government guidelines. If staff experience threatening behaviour or any form of intimidation, they will have no option but to call the police.

“If our parks are not used responsibly, the Government may be forced to close them. Help us keep to our parks open by adhering to the following guidelines.”

Those exercising in parks are asked to do so alone or with other members of the household and to keep two metres away from others at all times.

Group activities like playing football, exercising in a group with a personal trainer or having a picnic are not permitted.

Residents are also encouraged to use quieter parks if possible, such as Roding Valley, Hurstleigh Gardens and Ashton Playing Fields.

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Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter

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