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Hampstead Heath will close if social distancing rules are broken, City of London Corporation warns

PUBLISHED: 12:52 25 March 2020 | UPDATED: 13:59 25 March 2020

The view from Parliament Hill, where concerns of social distancing have been raised. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The view from Parliament Hill, where concerns of social distancing have been raised. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Nigel Sutton

Hampstead Heath will close if people continue to flout social distancing rules, the City of London Corporation (CoLC) warned on Tuesday (March 24).

Following government advice on Monday, CoLC has closed all public facilities on the Heath including the ponds, bar the park itself. Concerns have been raised by residents and Heath regulars over a lack of respect for social distancing, including the continued operation of Parliament Hill Farmers’ Market, for which the CoLC is not responsible.

A CoLC spokesperson said: “The City of London Corporation is closing all public facilities on its parks in line with new Government instructions on COVID-19. The organisation is maintaining public access to its green spaces for residents needing exercise and fresh air, benefitting physical and mental wellbeing.

“But it is warning the public to stop all non-essential use of public transport and follow Government rules on staying at home.”

The spokesperson said it will “close gated parks if people do not follow the social distancing advice and avoid unnecessary travel”.

Parliament Hill Farmers Market, which gathered crowds on Saturday, is exempt from enforced closure because it is a food market.

On Tuesday a spokesperson told the Ham&High the market would continue with increased safety measures including the imposition of a two-metre-spaced queue, a one-in, one-out system when maximum capacity was met, and extra stewards - “if necessary”.

“Like everyone else, we are striving to do our best in a deeply worrying situation,” the market spokesperson said.

“We serve the community and will of course do whatever the community and the government require of us.

“We have to weigh up the demands of staying open against the impact of closing, which would only increase the pressure on overcrowded supermarkets.

“People have to buy food somewhere. Those who believe a supermarket is a safer environment will act accordingly.”

Marc Hutchinson, Heath and Hampstead Society chair, said he would “wait to see” if social distancing improved following the more stringent safety guidelines.

He called for the Heath to stay open, adding: “It’s very important for people’s mental and emotional wellbeing that they can escape the confines of their house.”

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