Several of our local council clients have been in touch recently asking, in light of the Government’s new ‘lockdown’ advice, whether they are now obliged to fence off or otherwise secure playgrounds and outdoor fitness equipment and/or display closure notices.
The Government’s official advice has been criticised for being inconsistent, particularly in regards to whether they are encouraging people to get out and exercise for health and wellbeing purposes or suggesting that people shouldn’t go out at all.
In terms of playground and outdoor fitness equipment, however, the guidance does appear to be clear in that these areas should be avoided by the public.
The Government has ordered “certain businesses and venues to close”, which includes:
- Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, arcades and soft play facilities.
- Communal places within parks, such as playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms.
However, we are all aware of the problems with relying on the general public to take heed of Government advice.
Is it therefore the local council’s responsibility to secure and fence off playgrounds, sports courts and outdoor gyms or display closure notices?
Our opinion on this is no. Besides the extra resources required for this type of action, this may still not stop the ardent member of the public from trying to gain access. There is ample publicity, on TV and radio, regarding the closure of such equipment so a simple notice should suffice to remind the public of the current government advice if you wish to display something.
Fencing off the equipment would not be considered necessary and that no liability could be attached to the council if someone somehow alleged that they had contracted Coronavirus (COVID-19) due to the council’s lack of action.
However, if the equipment is defective in any way then normal safeguards should be put in place to avoid injuries occurring.
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