Anger as lockdown rules flouted at skaters' hangout

By Jon Walker   |   Senior reporter   |
Tuesday 12th January 2021 2:30 pm
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Police say they are aware of concerns and will patrol the area

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A COUNCIL leader has vented his frustration at people using a skateboard park amid fears they could spread the fast moving coronavirus that has so far has killed more than 75,000 people and infected almost three million in the UK.

Whitehill Town Council leader Andy Tree says the council, police and Covid marshals are unable to stop groups meeting at the skateboard park between Budds Lane and Station Road.

And after Monday’s lockdown news, Cllr Tree has had a deluge of emails complaining about social distancing guidelines being ignored there.

He said: “I am pleading with people to follow the social distancing rules at the skate park, so there is no health and safety risk, no risk to livelihood, and so it can be enjoyed safely – please can parents ensure their kids follow the rules.

“If everyone was doing that then we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

During the last lockdown, he said closure signs were ripped down and users continued meeting there.

But if the skate-park should be shut now, it appears no-one has the power, time, or manpower to enforce the closure.

Cllr Tree said: “Nobody is actually sure whether it should be open or closed, it’s very frustrating.

“If it’s open it has to be policed to ensure social distancing is going on, and if it’s closed it has to be policed to make it’s not being used.

“We can’t have council staff putting up signs to say its closed only to be intimidated by teenagers ripping them down.

“Enforcement is the police, with potential support from East Hampshire District Council’s Covid marshals, but there are only three police officers in Longmoor division.”

East Hampshire MP Damian Hinds said: “Exercise is permitted but group gathering isn’t. The clear advice is that people should not congregate and should stay at home except for the specified reasons. I know that is hard, but this is a whole-community effort to protect each other.”

And the district council said: “Our marshals are in touch with the police and other authorities but do not have enforcement powers. As part of their duties marshals will visit potential hot spots in Whitehill & Bordon to remind people of their responsibilities.”

However, Hampshire Constabulary contested the district council’s view that “under the latest lockdown the government has closed down all outdoor sports facilities, including skate parks”.

A police spokesman said: “Under the current restrictions, open air skate parks are permitted to stay open for exercise, however everyone must observe the national restrictions that are currently in place. As part of our regular patrols the local team does attend the area, and will disperse any groups seen to be breaching these regulations.”

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