Northumberland National Park reopening car parks - but coastal car parks remain closed

People are being warned ahead of the weekend that coastal car parks in Northumberland are staying closed for now.

By Ben O'Connell
Friday, 15th May 2020, 1:20 pm

The Conservative council leader, Peter Jackson, said that the authority ‘will open our car parks only when we’re happy that they can be opened safely’.

However, the Northumberland National Park Authority has announced that it will begin opening its car parks from today, Friday, May 15.

Following the easing of the coronavirus restrictions, since Wednesday, people have been allowed to spend more time outdoors, including going to parks and beaches to sunbathe, have a picnic or go fishing.

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Northumberland National Park sign looking over the moors above Elsdon. Picture Jane Coltman

People are also permitted to travel further to enjoy their time outside, with no restrictions on how far they can go to get to the countryside, national parks and beaches in England, although the Government says that they should check in advance of visiting places like national parks and beaches to make sure they are prepared for visitors.

Coun Jackson said: “While lockdown is easing, the pandemic is by no means over. There are still thousands of cases across the UK, with the North East having one of the highest levels in the country.

“We must do all we can to avoid a second wave of the virus and we certainly don’t want to put our communities or visitors at risk by opening our beauty spots too early.

“For this reason, we are taking a cautious approach and our car parks will remain closed until we have fully assessed it is safe to open them.

“We understand people’s frustrations, but we must put public safety first. If you can, please stay at home as much as possible – it’s the safest place to be.

“And when you go out to exercise, please do so with caution, and keep your distance.”

The council is also asking people that if they do travel somewhere to exercise, to be respectful and sensible, in light of reports of inconsiderate parking on roads and streets surrounding closed car parks.

In the national park, social-distancing measures have been put in place, ticket machines will be card only, signs will be in place providing advice and members of staff will be on patrol. Toilets and visitor centres remain closed.

Tony Gates, Northumberland National Park’s CEO, said: “We would like to thank everyone for their patience. We recognise that many people have missed the national park and are looking forward to enjoying the health and wellbeing benefits it brings, especially at this difficult time.

“The national park is a living, working landscape, and we ask that people respect this and consider whether their visit to the national park is necessary at this time.

“Our priority will always be the safety of our communities, staff, volunteers and visitors. We ask everyone to be responsible, considerate and kind as we take the next steps towards the nation’s recovery.

“Many facilities in the National Park remain closed and so people should be mindful of this when deciding if they should visit.”

Meanwhile, Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team is asking people to think twice, if not three times, before heading to the hills and it is essential that everyone takes responsibility for their own safety.

Team leader Iain Nixon said: “We’d like to offer our thanks to the public for staying at home and exercising locally over recent weeks and keeping themselves and our volunteer team members safe; this has ensured we remain operational and ready to respond to incidents.

“People should remember that they may well not be as ‘hill-fit’ and that their skills may be a little rusty.

“The public should follow the sound advice on the Adventure Smart UK website and consider their skills and capabilities, anticipate the weather and have the right equipment for the activity they are undertaking.”

Northumberland Tourism has also asked visitors not to return to the county until it is safe to do so.

Its chairman, David Hall, said: “We stand poised and ready to promote our world-class destination when the time is right, when our businesses are safe and ready to reopen, and when we can start to welcome people back to our beautiful county and enjoy everything it has to offer.”

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