On Sunday 5 April Brockwell Park was closed for the day. It was becoming impossible to enforce social distancing was the weather improved the day before, leading people to flock to the park. Lambeth Council does not have any legal authority to enforce the regulations concerning the restrictions on movement and gatherings, but is required assist in the enforcement of them by the police and to ensure that people are safe when using the park. Along with other Councillors we requested that the park be reopened as soon as possible, but this temporary closure was necessary.
We want to keep the park open this weekend. Brockwell Park is a lifeline for those living in the area who need outdoor space. Going to the park is useful for encouraging physical and mental health and the Government’s advice permits going for exercise as one of the reasons for leaving home.
There are now social distancing signs around the park encouraging behaviour that will aid social distancing this includes
- Not sunbathing, or sitting on the grass
- No large gatherings, BBQs and picnics or playing of sports.
- Keeping Dogs on leads
- Staying 2 meters away from others at all times
- We recognise that parks are used for health and fitness purposes, but joggers and others must exercise responsibly, making sure of social distancing, refraining from spitting and any other actions which could pose a health risk.
On social media many objected that given the size of Brockwell Park it was theoretically possible to do an activity such as sunbathe whilst engaging in socially distancing. Others pointed out that Brockwell Park has a large area and can absorb a lot of people.
This is besides the point. What an individual does may in insolation be within the rules but the cumulative impact of their behaviour makes it difficult for others to socially distance. If someone is sunbathing, and a jogger needs to leave a path in order to allow a family out for a walk to pass, it is not realistic to expect the jogger to jump over the sunbather and socially distance at the same time. Equally, people don’t enjoy the park with a calculator and tape measure in their hand. On warm busy days there tends to be a clustering around particular areas, such as the Herne Hill gate. In normal times this is delightful, during a pandemic this is potentially dangerous.
The Covid-19 crisis is unlike anything that has been experienced in modern Britain. There has not been a social upheaval on this scale since the beginning of World War One and the steps being undertaken now would have been regarded as the stuff of science fiction a few months ago.
Yet to meet this challenge we do need people to act responsibly. Normally when rules are imposed people are encouraged to view them as sets of prohibitions and to conclude that that which is not expressly forbidden is permitted. To combat transmission of this virus we need to view rules in a very different way, asking ourselves would our conduct put ourselves or others at risk of catching Covid-19 and acting in accordance with that Grundnorm.
We will do what we can to keep the park open during the Covid-19 crisis. Please do enjoy the park this weekend and stay safe doing so.