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Town skatepark reopens despite social distancing concerns

Up to 10 will be allowed to use New Milton skate park at one time – but how this can be policed is less clear
Up to 10 will be allowed to use New Milton skate park at one time – but how this can be policed is less clear

NEW Milton’s popular skatepark reopened yesterday (Wednesday) for the first time since lockdown, despite councillors’ concerns over whether social distancing could be observed.

Cllr Geoffrey Blunden, chair of the town council’s amenities committee, made it clear at Monday’s virtual meeting he was not convinced by the idea but proposed skaters and cyclists once again be allowed to use the facility, off Whitefield Road, in line with government advice.

He told members other skateparks in neighbouring towns and villages, including Lymington, were already back in action.

Town clerk Graham Flexman added the skatepark’s use would be limited to 10 people at a time but admitted he did not know how this rule could be policed.

Cllr Steve Clarke said he too wanted to see the reopening, but had “real reservations”, particularly as there is a playpark next door which is still prohibited from opening, under lockdown rules. The neighbouring multi-use games area will also remain closed.

“That is going to open up a new set of problems with people wanting to use the playpark as well,” Cllr Clarke said.

“I’ll have a small side-bet now that we will have the police there and social distancing will break down within hours. I’d like to say it won’t happen, but I’m 90% sure it will.”

Town mayor Cllr Alvin Reid called for social distancing warning signs, saying: “It’s important to emphasise with the signage that we are doing this for their safety and the safety of the children.”

Members heard that temporary fencing blocking off the facility had failed to deter some people. The public toilets on Old Milton Road were also opened on Wednesday.

Availability of other sporting facilities at town council-owned sites was also reviewed, with one of the tennis courts by the recreation ground reopened last Tuesday for bookings only.

New Milton Bowling Club was also due to have partially started up again on Wednesday in line with guidance from both the government and Bowls England.

The measures involve three rinks being open per green at the facility off Whitefield Road for a maximum of six bowlers per booked session.

Social distancing restrictions will be in place, with a separate entrance and exit, and a 15 to 20-minute gap between sessions.

However, Cllr Blunden said the town council was still awaiting government advice before making any decisions on reopening its cricket, football and rugby provisions at Fernhill Sports Ground, Fawcetts Field and Ashley Sports Ground.

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