MP says residents 'deeply concerned' about food and drink queues

  Posted: 13.01.21 at 18:51 by Sam Petherick

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The management of Richmond Park has responded after our MP passed on concerns about people queuing for food and drink in tight spaces.

Richmond Park MP Sarah Olney said she received a stream of correspondence from constituents who felt government guidelines were not being followed in the park.

She said: “Many of my constituents are deeply worried by what they saw in Richmond Park this past weekend.

“Aside from people generally congregating on paths and around gates, one of their biggest concerns is the situation with the park’s food and drink facilities, with visitors – many of whom not wearing masks – gathering in tight spaces whilst queuing to be served.

“I have written to Richmond Park to ask what measures they can put in place to create a safer system and one in which people are better able to socially distance.”

Sarah said she shared residents’ concerns but was keen to avoid closures of parks or facilities.

The outdoor cafe near Roehampton Gate

Instead, she hopes to see steps being taken to encourage safe and covid-compliant behaviour so that the park can remain open as a place of exercise.

She said: “This is not about closing the park, nor is it about policing people’s behaviour. We know that lockdown is having an awful impact on people’s physical and mental wellbeing and that it’s essential they are able to exercise when they need to.

“This is about recognising the immense danger posed by the new strain and acknowledging the surging rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths.

“It’s about making sure that measures are put in place to ensure proper social distancing can take place and that – instead of becoming a hotbed of infection - Richmond Park can stay open as a place for people to enjoy fresh air and reconnect with nature during these deeply challenging times.”

People are compelled by law to wear a face mask in most indoor settings such as shops, on public transport and in taxis, but this does not extend to outdoors.

Views of Petersham from just below King Henry's Mound in Richmond Park

A Royal Parks spokesperson said: “Following Sadiq Khan’s recent announcement of a ‘major incident’ in London, the Royal Parks continue to remain open and free for everyone as they have done throughout the pandemic.

“Our dedicated parks’ staff and contractors are working hard to keep the parks at their best. We are following all government guidance and we’re working with the Met Police to ensure the parks are safe for our visitors.

“But the unprecedented numbers of people using the parks for exercise means that unavoidably some parts of the parks can become more congested than others. We ask that everyone takes individual responsibility for their own protection and shows respect - for the needs of other visitors, for the landscapes of the parks and for the staff working so hard to keep the parks open.

“The government is clear that you must stay local when you leave home for a permitted reason, you must adhere to the 2m rule at all times and you must only exercise outside once a day. We understand how busy the parks can get, particularly when the weather is good, so we advise wearing a face covering as an extra precaution where you feel the need to do so.

“We urge everyone to leave their cars behind and seek out those parks and green spaces closest to home. Please do the right thing, play your part and take personal responsibility for your own protection and for that of others.

“For the most up-to-date information on all our parks, please visit the Royal Parks' website or follow us on Twitter.”

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