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Play areas reopen across Norfolk and Waveney - but some councils hold off for safety

PUBLISHED: 06:30 07 July 2020

Joy for children with the reopening of play areas in the region. PHOTO: RUSSELL PLAY

Joy for children with the reopening of play areas in the region. PHOTO: RUSSELL PLAY

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Parents hoping to get their children out to Norfolk and Waveney’s play areas have had some good news – but not everywhere.

The Redcastle play park in Thetford has reopened. Picture: ANTONY KELLYThe Redcastle play park in Thetford has reopened. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

New signs have now been installed on certain outdoor areas and public playgrounds in Norfolk and east Suffolk, as some reopened their gates again from Saturday, July 4, following the government’s green light.

But with local councils able to take their own decisions on when play areas reopen, not all were ready.

Among those to take the plunge were East Suffolk Council, which asked users to only use sites when it was possible to practice social distancing, and Thetford Town Council, which cited public health benefits as the justification for opening its 11 play areas and skatepark.

East Suffolk Council’s decision to reopen put responsibility in the hands of the public - urging them to take steps to stay safe.

The Stoven Close children's play area in north Lowestoft, overseen by Lowestoft Town Council. Pictures: Mark BoggisThe Stoven Close children's play area in north Lowestoft, overseen by Lowestoft Town Council. Pictures: Mark Boggis

Letitia Smith, East Suffolk council’s cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, said: “If a site is busy and it is not possible to practice social distancing, please consider coming back at another time when it is less busy.

“Also remember to bring hand sanitiser and use this frequently, and, as a minimum, before and after using any equipment.”

A Lowestoft Town Council spokesperson said that the play areas “can be used at the user’s own risk”.

The spokesperson said: “To enjoy the play areas safely people must supervise children at all times, keep to social distancing, limit time on equipment and queue patiently and politely if necessary to achieve this, frequently clean hands and surfaces that people may use, avoid eating and drinking in play areas and take rubbish home.”

Playgrounds like this one in Eaton Park will remain shut. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMANPlaygrounds like this one in Eaton Park will remain shut. Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN

Thetford Town Council discussed reopening its 11 play areas – the skatepark, Richard Easten Way, Fairfields, Bergamot, Castle Park, Maine Street, Redcastle, Edinburgh Way, Elm Road, Harriet Martineau and Pine Close – at a meeting last Wednesday, July 1.

A town council spokesman: “Councillors decided to open them on Saturday, July 4.

“The councillors considered the government guidance and decided that they would like to open at the earliest opportunity because of the health benefits of play.

“The existing signage on sites already states that there is an expectation that parents should be supervising children.

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“Councillors felt that providing signage that gives clear guidance on the safer use of the playground equipment was the best way forward.”

Some of the advice on the signs installed on the gates of the play areas in Thetford states: “Use a wipe to clean touch points such as swing rockers or handles.

“Bring hand sanitiser gel or wipes to clean your hands, immediately after play.

“Stay two metres apart while playing. If the area is busy and it is difficult to keep away from others, come back later when it is quieter.”

Elsewhere, South Norfolk District Council is “in the process” of reopening all 54 of its play areas and playgrounds, with the intention to get them back open as quickly as possible.

North Norfolk District Council said it would not reopen any of its 24 playgrounds until it was satisfied they could be reopened safely in line with government guidelines.

A statement on its website said: “People may notice officers on site at playgrounds carrying out inspections and working with contractors with an aim to open them shortly, however for the time being they remain closed.

“We ask people to respect that these facilities are for the most part taped off at the moment and should not be used.

“We will make the public aware as soon as they are able to enjoy our playgrounds again.”

Play areas managed by the borough council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk also remain closed – with Covid-19 risk assessments being carried out.

With more than 80 council-owned play areas across the borough, and around 1,400 individual pieces of equipment, the play area in The Walks, King’s Lynn did reopen on Saturday.

Norwich City Council said play areas in Norwich will stay closed for the time being.

Council leaders said that keeping the playgrounds shut is “the most responsible course of action” to help prevent a spike in coronavirus cases from happening.

The council will review the decision in two weeks.


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