Thursday, 13 August 2020

Play equipment off-limits as council say rules ‘unclear’

File picture of a children's play area.

File picture of a children's play area.

PLAY equipment in Goring will remain off-limits to the public for the time being.

The parish council, which is responsible for playgrounds at Gardiner recreation ground, off Upper Red Cross Road, and Bourdillon Field, off Wallingford Road, has opted not to re-open them despite calls from residents.

At a virtual full meeting last week, members said that Government advice isn’t clear enough on what needs to be done to keep users safe. It says all kit must be “adequately” cleaned but they want to know exactly what this means.

Councillor Lawrie Reavill, who investigated the matter, told colleagues that about half of playgrounds nationally had
re-opened, including the one at Hampstead Norreys, which he recently visited.

He said this appeared to be working well with restrictions on numbers, social distancing measures and the requirement for visitors to bring their own hand sanitiser.

This is also the case in neighbouring Streatley but Councillor Bryan Urbick argued this wasn’t a reason to follow suit and Cllr Reavill agreed.

Cllr Urbick said: “The Government’s advice putting the onus on parents is flawed as children should be able to play unaccompanied and that would make us responsible. Our insurers say we can’t just put up notices saying users are responsible. Until there’s proper guidance, we should remain closed.”

Councillor Kevin Bulmer, the chairman, said: “You can argue about who’s responsible but that would be decided by a court at the end of the day. Until then, no-one can say for sure so it’s not helpful in the slightest. I’d be more inclined to take an open approach but insurers clearly said signage wasn’t good enough.”

Parish clerk Laura White said the insurers told her playgrounds could re-open but a new risk assessment was needed whenever official advice changed.

Councillors also heard some people were sneaking in and using the equipment in spite of the ban. The authority has sought quotes for new fencing to prevent this.

South Oxfordshire District Council has re-opened all playgrounds which it is responsible for. Goring’s district councillor Maggie Filipova-Rivers has offered to advise the parish council on ways of reopening safely.

The playground at Manor Road, Whitchurch, has been reopened by the village parish council with a foot-operated pump which dispenses hand sanitiser.

Woodcote’s playground on the village green, off Reading Road, has re-opened with limits on visitor numbers and signs warning people to observe hygiene and social distancing guidelines.

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