Peak District National Park thanks thousands for ‘staying away’ but urges rights of way remain open for local communities
Tuesday 31 March 2020
The Peak District National Park Authority has thanked the public for 'staying away' following an impassioned campaign to help protect communities and key workers.
The campaign was launched after visitors were seen in large numbers at many popular locations and car parks last week, despite government advice to avoid non-essential journeys such as travelling by car to the Peak District. The Authority's teams have reported that the same locations were largely deserted during this weekend.
Continuing to stay at home and making use of green spaces from your doorstep is the simplest and most effective action the public can take in tackling COVID-19 in the Peak District and elsewhere.
For many residents, their local green space is access to their nearby rights of way network.
The National Park Authority is concerned to have received reports of people seeking to impose unauthorised closures of rights of way during the current coronavirus crisis.
The Authority has confirmed that public rights of way should not be closed-off or blocked. Such unauthorised closure is reducing the ability of Peak District residents to exercise whilst maintaining social distancing measures.
The National Park Authority has also been contacted by key workers who have seen routes local to their home shut with unofficial signage, preventing them walking to work, and cars belonging to key workers have been targeted with information about staying at home.
Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park, said: "Firstly, my heartfelt thanks go out to the many thousands of visitors who stood by the government’s advice to take exercise close to home last weekend, vastly reducing the impact on our local services that we experienced in the initial days following the Prime Minister’s lockdown measures.
"We have seen a dramatically quieter Peak District in the last few days, allowing police officers, key workers, our own teams and local communities to go about their work safely. This situation needs to remain in place until government advice lifts restrictions about our movements.
"I can understand a reaction to the high numbers of visitors we saw last week could, for some, be seen as needing to set up makeshift closures and blockages to rights of way. However, this is unauthorised activity; it is preventing local residents from exercising locally and in one case it has closed a footpath used by a key worker to get to work.
"There have been no changes to rights of way legislation as a result of the COVID-19 measures. Where we are notified of unauthorised closures, we will be sharing this information with the relevant managing authorities.
"Coronavirus does not distinguish between our towns and cities or indeed the smallest of Peak District villages. And when we are through this national fightback against coronavirus it will be vital, more than perhaps at any time in our history, that we respect the interconnectivity between all of our communities - whatever the Peak District may mean to us.
"We have already witnessed a remarkable sense of respect, kindness and humanity for those working tirelessly to help us through this challenge, and I ask that we all extend that to each other - so our National Park remains both a safe home, and a welcoming place for others when it is once again somewhere we can all enjoy together."