Fury over Vicky Park lockdown as angry families call Ombudsman over ‘illegal closure’
PUBLISHED: 17:27 07 April 2020 | UPDATED: 21:40 07 April 2020
© Rehan Jamil
Angry members of the public are taking action over the closure of Victoria Park, which they claim is unlawful.
Both Tower Hamlets Council, which manages the park, and the Met Police commander in charge of policing the area have been referred to the Local Government Ombudsman and the Independent Office for Police Conduct over the continued closure as an emergency measure dealing with coronavirus.
The protest has been sparked by families living close to the park.
“We all support the lockdown to beat this awful virus,” campaigner Richard Bingley said. “But we’re forced to walk dogs, jog and cycle into more compressed space with the park being closed.
“This draconian action is likely to increase our infection rate. It’s counter-productive and contravenes existing law, so we have reported it to the regulators.”
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Mr Bingley, a university lecturer in crisis management and planning, recently returned from the Czech Republic as it went into its own lockdown and said he found their measures “brutal” which effectively put the entire population into “house arrest” rather than social distancing.
“Thousands of us say we shouldn’t be punished,” he insists. “Victoria Park is a large open space. People misbehaving should be ticketed by the police rather than the rest of us being banned from 230 acres of open parkland.”
But Vicky Park could soon be reopened, it has emerged. Mayor John Biggs has admitted he didn’t want to close it in the first place.
He told the East London Advertiser: “I’m unhappy with it closed and want it reopened hopefully by the weekend, but we need to be confident in public behaviour. It was closed for operation reasons. Our park rangers and the police advised that it was best to close because of disorderly behaviour.
“But I am now looking at ways to reopen it as long as people maintain social distancing. We can’t just take off the padlocks unless our concerns are addressed. The public I feel has now learned how important it is to keep their social distance in tackling coronavirus.”
The protesters who set up a Parks Action group insist the authorities “over-reached their legal powers” by shutting the park.
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