Pre-lockdown crowds in city centre – Photo © Julian Swainson
The city of Norwich boasts an impressive range of excellent parks, open spaces and natural areas, where people can get much-needed rest, relaxation and exercise – enjoy some time alone or with loved ones.
While Norwich City Council has worked hard to make sure these spaces were kept open throughout the pandemic, there has an impact on the way people have been able to use these spaces, with many facilities having to close and activities cancelled.
As restrictions have been eased, we have looked carefully at the government guidelines, alongside the picture locally to make the best decisions for the city. With a further easing happening this weekend, it’s important to summarise the picture in Norwich.
From Monday 6 July, the main public toilets in Earlham, Waterloo and Eaton parks will be re-opened. We have worked with our contractor to increase the cleaning regime, installed better handwashing facilities and put up signage to remind people of the importance of distancing and good hygiene.
Sports and games courts and facilities
Our tennis, skate and BMX parks, pitch and kick courses and basketball/multi-use games areas have been open since last month and we advise people to take a number of precautions when using these, including remembering to:
keep two metres from people you don’t live with
avoid touching your face
using hand sanitiser before and after use
only meeting with up to five people from different households.
The work volunteers, including through the TCV and many friends groups, do to keep many of our parks and open spaces going is invaluable. We have put in place Covid-safe working guidance and so are delighted to be able to able to welcome volunteers back onto our sites after 4 July.
Playgrounds and outdoor gyms
While the government has announced that a number of facilities and venues can open from Saturday 4 July, with a series of stipulations and measures attached, Norwich City Council has made the decision to keep play areas and outdoor gyms closed for the time being.
Councillor Matthew Packer cabinet member for health and wellbeing said:
“It has not been an easy decision to keep these well-loved facilities closed – and as a father of three children under seven, I know how much this will come as a disappointment to many parents and kids.
Our over-riding consideration, however, has to be for the safety, health and wellbeing of all people in the city. The government has said that these facilities can be opened if ‘regular cleaning’ regimes are put in place. It has not, however, been specific about what this might involve and with 1,700 pieces of equipment across 81 playgrounds, taking a detailed review and implementing, if necessary, largescale changes at short notice will take time and planning.
Norwich has had very low numbers of Covid-19 cases, and, in stark contrast to other areas of the country, it has not seen a spike. I don’t think the role that the very vast majority of people has played in keeping themselves and others safe by behaving responsibly can be over-emphasised – so thank you!
However, it’s important to add: coronavirus hasn’t gone away. We are so glad that businesses are able to start welcoming people back, but it’s absolutely critical that people continue to stay safe. By keeping playgrounds closed, we are doing what we can to prevent a spike from occurring, which we feel is the most responsible course of action for the people of Norwich.
We will not hesitate to re-open any facilities that people love and rely so much on using when we’re confident this can be done in a safe way.”
The decision to keep playgrounds closed will be reviewed in two weeks’ time.