Public toilets will be closed at popular tourist and leisure destinations in Derby and Derbyshire this bank holiday weekend.
The 11 public toilets in the Derbyshire Dales area, including Matlock Bath, will remain shut until the authority “can guarantee the safety of users and cleaning staff” amid the coronavirus pandemic.
And Derby City Council has confirmed toilets, outdoor gyms, and children’s play areas in parks across the city, including Alvaston Park and Chaddesden Park, will remain closed.
Derbyshire Dales District Council has warned anyone contemplating visiting tourist hotspots like Matlock Bath to take into account that the vast majority of local services will be unavailable due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
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Its chief executive Paul Wilson said: “I want to stress that not reopening our public toilets at the moment is an operational, not a political, decision and one based entirely on us not yet being able to guarantee the safety of users and of our own cleaning staff.
“Unlike toilets in hospitals or supermarkets, our public toilets are in uncontrolled environments, with open access, and there is significant potential for Covid-19 transmission in areas such as toilet seats, door handles, wash basins and taps.
“We are looking at the potential of introducing queueing systems to manage crowds at peak times to ensure social distancing rules are observed, but right now we simply do not have the resources to manage the facilities to the required level of safety.
“Government guidance makes it very clear that we cannot open our play areas at the moment because of the danger of transmission of the virus and we have to take the view that public toilets pose at least as great a risk.
“So we are continuing to investigate options to reopen when it is safe to do so, but risk assessments show it isn’t appropriate to reopen this weekend. When we do get to that position, we will be obliged to carry out a detailed consultation with operational staff and other stakeholders.”
The parks overseen by Derby City Council, including Allestree Park, Alvaston Park, Chaddesden Park, Markeaton Park and Darley Park, are also expected to be busy over the bank holiday weekend.
Councillor Robin Wood, the city council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “Our parks and open spaces are wonderful and relaxing places to visit, but I would urge visitors to bear in mind that not all of our park facilities are able to reopen and to plan for this.
“Please remember to practise social distancing at all times.”
Derbyshire County Council, health, police and fire chiefs have put out a joint statement asking tourists to “put off your visit until later in the year when Derbyshire will be fully open for business and will be able to welcome you properly”.
The statement has been released after destinations across the county saw a large number of visitors last weekend.
It reminds visitors that pubs, restaurants and cafés remain closed, and urges them to use common sense in areas where it is difficult to stay socially distanced.
Matlock Bath is named as one village where high visitor numbers meant social distancing was difficult to manage last weekend.
The statement goes onto warn motorists that tickets will be issued in areas where car parking is currently limited, including near the Ladybower Reservoir, in the Peak District.
It adds that popular parks, such as Elvaston Country Park and Markeaton Park, are expected to see large numbers of visitors, and reminds people to clear up after themselves and to stick to the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
The statement reads: “As Derbyshire leaders we are joining together to ask visitors to respect local communities this coming bank holiday weekend and to consider if they could come later in the year instead.
“Many local people were left feeling vulnerable and at risk following large numbers visiting the Peak District and other parts of Derbyshire last weekend.
“Our message is clear – please respect our communities and please put off your visit until later in the year when Derbyshire will be fully open for business and will be able to welcome you properly.
“If visitors are coming to Derbyshire to exercise, then they need to be aware that public toilets are still expected to be closed and – like the rest of the country – pubs, restaurants and cafés are also closed.
“Visitors need to use some common sense, particularly when in areas where social distancing can be difficult.
“In many parts of Derbyshire, particularly rural villages, social distancing is difficult with large numbers of visitors. Matlock Bath was one village reporting large numbers of visitors last weekend, making social distancing extremely difficult.
“In some parts of the county car parking is limited. Areas around Ladybower Reservoir have very limited parking as the roads closest are mainly clearways which mean no stopping at all, and the local visitors centre and car park run by Severn Trent won’t open until early June.
“Parking is being enforced, and those parking on a clearway or double yellow lines can expect a parking ticket. These areas need to be kept free so that emergency vehicles can get through when they need to. Visitors are also asked not to park on pavements and not block gates.
“Parks are also expected to be busy, including Elvaston Country Park and Markeaton Park in Derby. Visitors are asked to remember social distancing and to take their litter home.
“Derbyshire is a beautiful county and we understand people’s desire to visit, but a visit later in the year will help protect our local communities and give you the full Derbyshire experience. We look forward to welcoming you then.”