Mon, 30 Mar 2020
POLICE have been wrong to threaten West Berkshire motorists with fines if they drive to exercise spots, some critics have claimed.
One local politician has written to the chief constable, who was personally enforcing travel restrictions in Newbury at the weekend.
Meanwhile, police insisted on social media: "The Government restrictions currently in place DO NOT permit you to use your vehicle to travel to locations for exercise," and warned of fines for transgressors.
The local politician, who asked not to be named, claimed: "That is inconsistent with the law. The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 defines a reasonable excuse to leave your household as 'to take exercise either alone or with other members of their household'.
"There is no restriction in this legislation on the means by which you leave your household in order to take your exercise;I would be grateful if you could let me know the legal basis for the statement made... it appears that TVP has been engaging in enforcement that would also be not legally justified."
Another local politician, Tony Vickers – speaking as a private citizen – has stated, in a letter to the Newbury Weekly News' letters to the editor pages: "There is some confusion about how to interpret the official advice on staying at home when it comes to one of the four allowed exceptions: to 'do one form of exercise'.
"As the council’s appointee on the Mid & West Berks Local Access Forum (MWBLAF), which has a statutory duty to advise all public bodies on access to the countryside, I am personally interpreting this as follows: this advice only applies to people feeling well and with no special risk factors."
And Christopher Cripps, of Paynesdown Road, Thatcham asked: "Are the police risking lives? I see the police have closed the car parks at Greenham Common and Thatcham lakes. If I walk to the common, as I often have, I have a good chance of meeting others in passing.
"I walked to the lakes on Friday, passing and meeting, at a distance where possible, five walkers, and a similar number walking home. Whereby, if I drive I am isolated in my car, safe from others and safe to others, arriving safe to walk the open spaces free of risk."
He added: "I’m not saying we should be out joyriding, but a bit of common sense would be nice. My wife has a blue badge and on a good day she can enjoy a safe walk with assistance on the common, but no way could she walk there. I'd also like to say how nice and rare it is to see a policeman. Didn’t know we had so many!"