North Yorkshire Police and local authority chiefs have urged the public to stay home this weekend, despite new guidance suggesting it is lawful to drive somewhere to go for a walk.
The National Police Chief’s Council and College of Policing have written a three-page document explaining to officers what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ excuse to leave the home after some forces were criticised for being heavy-handed over the crisis.
The document states that driving to countryside and walking — where far more time is spent walking than driving — is acceptable.
The guidance also states that stopping to rest or to eat lunch while on a long walk is also acceptable.
However, police chiefs and local authority bosses in North Yorkshire have urged the public not to get in their car to travel to the county’s beauty spots this weekend.
Assistant Chief Constable Mike Walker said: “We understand that asking people to continue to stay at home is challenging, especially at weekends when the weather is good.
“We know that it’s tempting for those who live outside of North Yorkshire to get into the car to visit the region and enjoy our open spaces or coast line.
“However, if you choose to ignore the advice and travel unnecessarily, you are putting the benefits we are beginning to see, thanks to the sacrifices made by millions over the past weeks, at risk.”
He added: “The recent guidance issued to forces by the CPS regarding what constitutes a reasonable journey still requires police officers to use their judgement and discretion to assess each situation.
“This does not change our policing approach in North Yorkshire and our officers will continue to use their professional judgement. In some circumstances we may have to use enforcement as a last but necessary resort, to keep the public safe.
“This is not about trying to find justification for a day out or loopholes to side step the advice. The truth is stark – if you do travel further than you absolutely have to, you are risking the spread of the virus, your own lives and that of others.
Andy Wilson, chief executive of the North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “Government guidance remains the same.
“We must all continue to take responsibility for helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 and we can do this by simply staying at home and avoiding all nonessential travel.
“The government has permitted that people can leave their homes for exercise, but they have advised that this should be done locally using open spaces near to your home.”
David Butterworth, chief executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, added : “Exercise should be done locally, and people should not be making special journeys to access the countryside.
“Our Ranger Service will once again be supporting North Yorkshire Police in the National Park over the weekend, encouraging people to heed this advice.”
He added that national park offices, visitor centres, car parks and toilets were all closed, while public rights of way remained open for local people to take exercise, and shop for essentials.
He said it was important these were not blocked or obstructed.
Where rights of way pass close to, or through residential and agricultural properties, Government advice regarding social distancing and hand washing should be strictly adhered to,he added. [kofi]