KNUTSFORD’S Conservative councillors are calling for Tatton Park to be reopened for walkers.

The park has been closed since March 21 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and councillors want to see it open again, at least for pedestrians, as soon as possible.

Matthew Robertson, leader of the Conservative group on Knutsford Town Council, said: “As a group we think it is important for the mental and physical wellbeing of Knutsford residents that Tatton Park is open for pedestrians.

“The park is an ideal location for people to practice social distancing.”

Their calls have been echoed by Tatton MP Esther McVey, who said there was no reason for the park to stay closed to pedestrians or cyclists.

Cheshire East Council said it would reopen parts of the park when and where it was safe to do so, taking account of government restrictions on pay-for-entry attractions.

Tatton Park is managed by Cheshire East Council on behalf of the National Trust.

A spokesman from Tatton Conservative Association said Cllr Tony Dean was denied entry to the park on March 22, and was told by Cheshire East Council it had been shut because it could be overwhelmed by day-trippers, people were not observing social distancing and there were insufficient staff to keep people safe.

The spokesman said: “These reasons do not hold water against repeated recent requests to reopen for pedestrians.

“During the lockdown people have learned to stay local as much as possible for their exercise, and the number of cars likely to travel to Knutsford/Tatton from outside the immediate locality is miniscule.

“People are now well used to the two-metre rule, and it is being observed by the vast majority.

“We do not need safety staff to watch over people walking in Tatton park, especially when there are no cars or bicycles there.

“Now that we have had Government guidance on keeping open or reopening as much public green space as possible, it’s a scandal that this magnificent asset is still closed to the thousands of local residents who would love to enjoy its scenic beauty while taking their daily exercise.

“The Labour-Independent coalition in charge at Cheshire East Council has kept open or reopened all the parks in Crewe and Macclesfield, as well as in other areas of Cheshire East, but is still sitting on its hands at Tatton Park - why?”

Knutsford’s Conservative councillors discussed the issue in a virtual meeting on May 19, and have launched a renewed campaign to see the park reopened to pedestrians.

Councillor Nick Mannion, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for environment and regeneration, said: “We regret that Tatton Park must remain closed, unlike our town parks and our open spaces.

Knutsford Guardian:

Cllr Nick Mannion

“We continue to follow government guidelines in terms of social distancing, and as Tatton Park is a popular destination attraction, opening the park would have brought people to Knutsford from a wide area.

“Managing large numbers of visitors would place an extra burden and increased risk on the local area and community.

“Our experience in the early stages of the pandemic demonstrated that it was difficult to maintain social distancing, and the large numbers of people visiting Tatton could have created a health risk.

“We await clarification of government guidance that would allow us to open, and are currently planning how we will be able to reopen the park while maintaining safe distancing and protecting the many people who enjoy visiting.

“The council will reopen parts of the park when and where it is safe to do so, taking account of government restrictions on pay-for-entry attractions.

“While we had hoped to open the parkland to pedestrians first, our plans for reopening on a phased basis will be determined by best practice, safety and our legal responsibilities to the public and our staff, as well as endeavoring to minimise the impact this might have on the town of Knutsford and the local community.

“Once we are in a position to reopen the park, following clarification from government, we plan to facilitate car entry, walkers and cyclists and provide access to the parkland, toilets and the staff required to safely manage these areas.

“We appreciate the public’s forbearance in these difficult circumstances and look forward to welcoming visitors once again very soon.”

Tatton MP Esther McVey said Tatton Park must re-open to allow walkers to enjoy exercising in their local area.

Knutsford Guardian:

Esther McVey

Ms McVey said there was no reason to stay closed to pedestrians or cyclists, and exercise was vital in helping protect mental as well as physical health during this difficult time.

She said: “I have been contacted by so many constituents who want to go to Tatton Park and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

“People are confused and annoyed as to why they cannot go to the park and I share their frustrations.

“No-one is suggesting opening all areas or the car park, but the pedestrian entrances could open to allow walkers and cyclists access to their local parkland.

“I do not understand why the council need to wait for instructions on pay for entry attractions as that is not the issue here.

“People want access to their local park via pedestrian entrances and to be allowed to walk around the free parts of the park.

“The council tell me it will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so and I agree safety is extremely important, but given the size of the park it can reopen and still allow people to maintain their distance, there is plenty of space for social distancing.

“Other green spaces are open, The Carrs in Wilmslow which is much smaller, and The Edge in Alderley Edge is open and many others across our constituency and further afield.

“I hope the council will rethink its decision and open the gates so people can enjoy the area to help everyone through these unprecedented times.”