Families have been spotted using a park play area – in breach of lockdown rules.
A photograph of a group of people using the play area at Bucknall Park was posted on social media by the Bucknall City Farm And Park Memories group.
In the picture, which was taken by a park visitor on Saturday, a mother can be seen with a young child, with some older teenagers in the background.
All public play areas and outdoor gyms in Stoke-on-Trent remain closed in line with the national lockdown rules, despite the recent loosening of restrictions.
People using play areas are potentially putting themselves at risk of infection, by touching surfaces where the coronavirus might be present.
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Stoke-on-Trent City Council has put up signs saying the facilities are out-of-use, and gates have been locked where this is possible. The authority has even resorted to removing play equipment from some parks where there have been repeated breaches.
The play area at Bucknall Park is fenced off, with both gates currently chained shut, and with notices up.
Mike Pennington, chairman of Friends of Bucknall Park, says the breaches are happening on a regular basis.
He said: “It’s not just families using it during the day. In the evenings we get the youths of the county congregating there, drinking and taking drugs.
“We’ve reported this to the police, and now we’ve told the council as well. Hopefully, they’ll be able to get the police down there, or send their own officers.
“It’s not just the coronavirus I’m worried about. Before it was closed, the play equipment there would have been inspected on a regular basis. Obviously that isn’t happening at the moment, so the equipment might not be safe to use, especially considering the way some people are using it.”
In the post on Facebook, the Bucknall City Farm and Park Memories group says: “Scenes like this are not acceptable when it has been made clear numerous times that play areas are closed! Please respect the guidelines that are currently in place and understand that the gates to the play areas are closed for a reason.
“Do not climb over the fences or gates! If this is seen it will be reported.”
Bucknall resident Rachel Marisha Aston, who took the picture of the play area at Bucknall Park, said: “I take my daughter to Bucknall Park most days, she would love to play on the equipment but I have explained to her that it is off-limits and she understands, but when we walk past and see parents, kids and teenagers happily playing in there my daughter can’t understand why they are allowed in but she is not.
“It’s not rocket science, there are chains on both gates and signs everywhere saying it is out of use, you wouldn’t break into a shop if the doors were locked, the play area is no different.”
While some park facilities, such as tennis courts and bowling greens, are being reopened across North Staffordshire in line with the national loosening of lockdown restrictions, play areas must remain closed due to the increased risk of infection through contact with surfaces.
The city council has removed the chains and seats from swings at Grange Park after residents reported people breaking the rules.
Council leader Abi Brown said: “Unfortunately we are aware of some parents lifting their children over locked gates at play areas. We’ve also seen signs and tape removed from some play areas.
“I don’t know the details about the situation at Bucknall Park, but I know that the council has had to remove the equipment in some play areas, such as at Grange Park.
“We appreciate that some people may not read The Sentinel and so they might not be aware of the rules, so we’re reiterating the fact that all our play areas remain closed. It actually says it explicitly in the updated rules that play areas and outdoor gyms must stay closed.
“Council staff in parks are keeping an eye on play areas and replacing signs and tape if they are removed.”
Commenting on the picture from Bucknall Park, Assistant Chief Constable Simon Tweats called on parents to set a good example for their children.
He tweeted: “We know it’s not easy but please act responsibly and help to keep everyone safe and well. Your kids already think you’re a super hero, without acting invincible. Please try to remember super heroes save lives, not put them at risk. Thanks.”
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