Bishop's Stortford Town Council closes splash park as weather hots up
Bishop's Stortford's splash park remains closed on Monday (August 10) for the fourth successive day after being closed by the town council on Friday amid concerns about large numbers of visitors spreading coronavirus.
The aquatic play area in Castle Park has been heaving with young families as temperatures have risen, drawing comparisons with a "mini Bournemouth beach".
The council's chief executive officer, James Parker, reviewed the risks and, in a briefing sent to town councillors, concluded it could reopen on Monday (August 10) – unless the weather forecast changed and cooler temperatures were not predicted.
But with the Met Office now predicting that temperatures in the Stortford area will not dip below 30C (86F) until Friday (August 14), the splash park could be shut for seven days.
The shutdown plans were kept under wraps to prevent an advance spike in visitors to the attraction, which has, in at least one case, prompted a family from London to travel to the town.
The briefing says: "This decision is based on the observed behaviours, the expected density of children in the pool and the very poor understanding we have, due to lack of published information, of the local prevalence of the [Covid-19] disease and likely transmission mechanisms in an outdoor environment where there are multiple, albeit short, interactions.
"The very recent information that the infection rate nationally is now increasing, and that people are travelling, in one known case from London, to visit the pool have also influenced the decision.
"Going forward it is likely that the pool will be closed on future hot days, however we will be continually monitoring behaviours and reassessing."
Several readers have contacted the Indie to express their concerns about the impossibility of safe social distancing at the pool and the potential for spreading coronavirus.
Mr Parker said that a queuing or booking system had been considered but it was difficult to see how it could be implemented in practice.
Asking children to wear face masks was a further safety option reviewed, but again rejected as not viable because of the Government's advice that those under 11 are exempt.
He said that the issue of how the splash park should operate would be continually reviewed throughout the summer.
The town council's decision was largely welcomed on the Indie's Facebook page.
Sally Gill said: "We drove past last Friday and it was absolutely heaving, there must have been a hundred kids running around. It looked like mini Bournemouth beach."
Darren Gribble added: "If anyone saw it last week when the temperatures were high and sun was out, you would have thought it was a good idea to consider shutting it then. Appears similar mentality of some people to those hitting the beaches. Thought we are still social distancing."
Kath Sweet said: "I saw it last weekend and if I had any intention of visiting I’d have turned around and gone somewhere else. It was very densely packed and I wasn’t very comfortable with what I saw. It needs a marshal on the gate to control numbers."
And Gill Evans added: "Have driven past several times and shocked at how busy it was. The virus hasn’t gone away."
However, Susanna Verderame said: "Poor kids need some fun in their life's [sic] they took school away from them holidays away from them no soft plays and now they wanna take splash pools away."