As part of our commitment to protecting our public spaces, Chair of Lambeth Liberal Democrats, Doug Buist, recently wrote to Lambeth Council raising concerns about the closure of Brockwell Park on Sunday 5th April 2020.
When Brockwell Park in Herne Hill was closed on Sunday 5 April, I wrote to Cllr Jack Hopkins, the leader of Lambeth Council, as well as my ward councillors and MP, to seek reassurances that the park would re-open the following day. Observing the current Government guidance on staying at home and social distancing is vital to protecting lives, it is also in all our interests to ensure a measured approach to issues like access to parks and open spaces.
There were reasonable concerns about use of the park on the Saturday (4 April), but I believe we need to keep all our parks open for the following reasons:
- They provide space to exercise and maintain mental health and wellbeing.
- In a high density area where people have no or limited access to personal green space, they will enable us all to sustain isolation and distancing.
- Many residents are working hard throughout the week to both provide essential services and to save businesses and are entitled to enjoy the limited relaxation options available to them.
- Parks often provide a safer, healthier access to local amenities like shops.
- The evidence is that the vast majority of people are using the park in the way demanded by the government instructions.
It was also not helpful to release the figure of 3,000 park users (for which no methodology was given) on Twitter which subsequently led to a less-than-measured media and social media frenzy.
That leads to something that we need to emphasise as Liberal Democrats: the need to be mindful of our civic rights at this time.
It cannot become - maliciously or inadvertently - an excuse for authorities to over-reach in their control of individuals' lives, or to encourage people to start making up their own rules and harassing people who are abiding by the law (as we have seen a lot on social media in recent weeks). We also continue to pay our Council Tax and should be able to expect access to the services we fund.
I was pleased to receive a swift reply from the Leader’s Office that it was anticipated the park would reopen on Monday (as it did).
I also expressed my thanks for the work the Council is doing to support the community in Lambeth at this time.