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Council's freeze on fun

PUBLISHED: 12:53 05 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:54 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons KILLJOYS at Camden Council have been branded health and safety fascists for closing almost 50 parks because of the snow. Hundreds of families woke to the sight of the biggest British snowfall in 20 years and made their way to open spaces as

Tan Parsons

KILLJOYS at Camden Council have been branded "health and safety fascists" for closing almost 50 parks because of the snow.

Hundreds of families woke to the sight of the biggest British snowfall in 20 years and made their way to open spaces as a transport meltdown meant a day off work. But they were greeted with padlocks and chains.

The council initially said the parks were locked because pathways had not been gritted and presented a health and safety risk. As anger mounted throughout the day, a spokeswoman then back-peddled and said the decision was made because there were insufficient staff to man the parks.

Geoff Berridge, chairman of governors at Hampstead School, which shut, said the move was indicative of the council's mentality: "People, especially youngsters, should be able to go out and play in the parks when it has snowed. I think it is a very poor show especially when the snow was forecast. This over-managing of our lives is ridiculous."

Camden Council has previously come under fire for banning barbecues in parks in summer months, for fear that people might burn themselves.

Waterlow Park user Simon Briscoe said this week: "Camden closes the schools and then closes the park - perhaps the place that children would want to go more than anywhere else.

"The council deprived its residents of a rare day to mess in the snow. A council official locked the gates despite knowing people were in Waterlow Park and would have difficulty getting out.

"The only way out was to jump a wall or gate. Whatever the reason for closing the park, there could have been no danger greater than dozens of people climbing over high fences and gates."

Paul Anderson, of the Friends of Waterlow Park, branded the council "health and safety fascists", adding: "The issue presents a concern for safety but is actually more about middle ranking bureaucrats pushing procedure when a bit of common sense is needed."

Labour councillor Roger Robinson said there needed to be a contingency plan for snow: "The way the supposed gritting of the roads has been managed has been bloody awful. We need to plan for the future."

A council spokeswoman said: "We would love to have been able to open all our parks on Monday but our priority has been to keep the council's essential services going. All our sports and leisure centres, along with most of Camden's libraries, were also open providing lots of activities for families and children who were not at school or work."

Dismayed punters turned away from parks either climbed the park walls or trudged instead to Hampstead Heath and Primrose Hill, where there were no such restrictions in place as they are managed by the Corporation of London and Royal Parks.


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