COVID-19 Guidance

Important information for using parks

Latest information – 12 April 2020

Parks and green spaces in the East and West Midlands are vitally important for exercise and mental wellbeing, but to ensure they stay open for everyone to use, you must follow the Government’s rules to stop the spread of COVID-19.

This means following the above government guidance, by

  • Using one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household. And even when doing this, you should be minimising time spent outside of the home and ensuring you are 2 metres apart from anyone outside of your household.
  • When using parks or green spaces, it is vital that you take these steps:
  • Do not visit a park if you have any symptoms – fever, coughs, shortness of breath. See NHS guidelines See NHS guidelines if this applies to you.
  • Parks should be used for daily exercise or essential travel only. Team sports, social activities (e.g. picnics, playdates etc.) and sunbathing should not be taking place.
  • Stay local and use open spaces near to your home  – do not travel unnecessarily. If you have a garden, make use of the space for exercise and fresh air. Please consider that people without gardens rely on parks more.
  • You should only go outside alone or with members of your own household. Gatherings of more than two in parks or other public spaces have been banned. The Police and local authorities are asking us to follow these guidelines.
  • Observe social distancing, staying at least 2 metres apart from other people
  • Use all areas of the park that remain open, not just the paths, so you can maintain an appropriate distance from others.
  • If the park is crowded, do not enter if you cannot safely stay at a distance from others.
  • Avoid touching surfaces (such as gates or hand-rails) and your mouth and face. Please follow Public Health England advice on hygiene and wash your hands as soon as you get home.
  • Keep your dog on a lead at all times to ensure you can safely keep 2 meters away from others.
  • Pay attention to instructions provided by parks services including any officials on site. Temporary measures have been put in place to safeguard you, such as avoiding benches, surfaces and equipment.
  • Do not use areas of the park that have been closed such as play areas, outdoor gyms or sports facilities – these are closed to stop the possible spread of COVID-19 through touching surfaces and keeping a safe distance from others,
    Some providers of public parks and green spaces, have decided to close some, or all, of their parks, facilities or car parks within their parks. They are best placed to make those difficult decisions based on their understanding of local circumstances.
  • Many other outdoor spaces are still open. But in some spaces, such as canal towpaths for example, it may be difficult to maintain the recommended distance from other users, so please try to avoid these areas and choose places you can exercise safely.

Public Rights of Way – Information from DEFRA

Public Rights of Way under the Highways Act 1980 and use of Access Land under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000: Covid-19

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home.

However, exercise is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing, so the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

NFU and CLA have told us that some landowners are still concerned about increased use of public rights of way on their property increasing the risk to livestock, such as instances of gates being left open and dogs not being controlled.

To help address this we will publish a supplementary video on social media in advance of this weekend, reminding people to follow the Countryside Code. This will be published on Twitter @DefraGovUK and Defra’s Facebook page.  We encourage you to share this with your members and networks.

Finally, further concerns have been raised by stakeholders that the use of public rights of way that run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct public rights of way or access land. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:  tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.

Note:

  • This is a polite request only, and there is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) or the Highways Act 1980 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way or use of access land.
  • Offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.

Key points to Note under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the Highways Act 1980 

  • Under Section 137 the Highways Act 1980 and section 14 of CROW it is an offence to obstruct the free passage along a public right of way or Access Land.
  • It is an offence under Section 57 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 to display a notice that contains “any false or misleading statement likely to deter the public from using” a right of way.
  • It is also an offence under section 14 of CROW to display a sign which deters the public from exercising their right to use that access.
  • It is an offence under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 to display on the surface of a public right of way or on any tree or structure within the public right of way any unauthorised sign or mark.
  • Land owners may be liable for personal injury under section 2 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957 and Section 1 of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 if they are reckless or intend to create a risk – for example by offering a dangerous alternative.

This means that:

  • If a land owner offers an alternative route, they must ensure that it is safe to use and that the existing right of way or use of access land is maintained so that users with differing abilities have a choice.
  • A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way or use of access land.
  • These temporary measures must be lifted as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

Allotments

The National Allotment Society is working to provide clarity on what the virus outbreak, and ensuing impacts, will mean for Allotments. Latest information from the National Allotment Society

The Countryside Code

Follow this link for general information on accessing the countryside – The Countryside Code 2016

People with animals

Follow this link for information on people with animals, including dogs

Farmers/landowners

Farmers, landowners and rural businesses should follow this link

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