25 November 2020
At the end of last week, the Town Council sought explicit guidance from the Ministry of Communities and Local Government through our representative body the National Association of Local Councils regarding the use of play equipment etc from 04 July 2020.
The detailed 8-page 'guidance' and 'requirements' for Playgrounds and Outdoor Gyms during this next phase of protective lockdown was published as a gov.uk document on the afternoon of Friday 26 June 2020 and has been studied with a view to compliance and the ability to open up these facilities.
As proper legal officer to the Town Council, I regret I must inform you that the Town Council does not have the resources to anywhere near conform to the latest guidance and requirements that will safely allow access to play equipment on our parks.
In particular, the Town Council cannot comply with any form of COVID-19 risk assessment, however simple, because there are not the sufficient numbers of trained staff (we only have three) to ensure that the requirements are met, let alone most of the guidance measures too.
In addition to the parks, there are various public open spaces plus Mill Lane cemetery that the Town Council operate and maintain. The administration for all of the estate and more is carried out by 2.4 full-time equivalent staff.
The Ministry lay down that "owners/operators of playgrounds and outdoor gyms must assess and manage the risk of potential COVID-19 transmission relevant to the users of the equipment, such as children, parents, guardians and carers as well as staff hired or tasked with the maintenance of cleaning of equipment". The Town Council have an explicit legal responsibility to protect workers and others from risk to their health and safety.
The Town Council cannot enforce effective social distancing of 2m or even 1m or a form of rigorous, frequent cleaning and hygiene regime. The Ministry make it clear that the Town Council may keep play equipment 'closed' on health and safety grounds. I repeat, with regret, facilities will remain closed for the foreseeable future for the benefit of all.
ADDENDUM: With England entering into a national lockdown until 02 December 2020 and the repeat of the Government Guidance to owner/operators of playgrounds the closures remain extant. The Town Council will review the guidance and situation at two meetings in early December 2020 and decide matters accordingly.
05 November 2020 ME JACKSON, Town Clerk