The former chairman of Watford Labour says it was “irresponsible” for a council to open a new activity park during the coronavirus pandemic.

Mike Jackson believes it was a “dangerous decision” by Watford Borough Council to open Oxhey Activity Park earlier this month, claiming that more than 1,000 visitors were “crammed” into the park over the weekend.

He believes the park should be temporarily closed until the pandemic is over.

However, the council is reassuring residents that their protection remains “the number one priority” - and said it would take action if evidence showed people were testing positive for COVID-19 after visiting.

Oxhey Activity Park features a skate park, new Tasty Bean café, BMX track and an adventure playground.

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The facilities at Oxhey Activity Park (photo Simon Jacobs)

It has proved to be popular with people around Watford, but Mr Jackson, who said the park is "great", is calling for it to be temporarily closed as he felt that “social distancing rules were generally being ignored” when he attended the park at the weekend.

He added that no face masks were being worn where people were closer than two metres together and that “many” individual groups were larger than six people.

New rules brought in by the government on Monday, September 14, means that gatherings of more than six people in England are illegal.

A resident, who did not want to be named, said the park was like “Brighton Beach” at the weekend.

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People at Oxhey Activity Park at the weekend (photos Mike Jackson)

He said: “There must have been 500, maybe 1,000 people there. All young people, no social distancing, nobody wearing any masks.

“For the young people the park is an absolute magnet and I can understand that. But given the circumstances this should have been cordoned off and they should not be allowing people there, not like that.”

Mr Jackson added: “I acknowledge that the Oxhey Activity Park is a great facility, however, it was an act of gross irresponsibility by the council to open this facility in the middle of a Covid pandemic.

“We are all being asked to accept restrictions including banning large gatherings but here we have a dangerous decision to open a facility which is bound make the Covid crisis worse.”

He also claimed that over the weekend there was no council or police presence to advise people.

Mr Jackson added: “This close interaction between predominantly young people will increase community transference of the disease which will soon reach the old and vulnerable and deaths will rise in Watford.

“I hate to be a kill-joy, but the only solution is in my view to close the park until the Covid crisis is over.”

Watford Mayor Peter Taylor says the council has placed marshals at the park to “help ensure that people are remembering to follow the rules to keep themselves and others safe”.

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Peter Taylor at Oxhey Activity Park (photo Simon Jacobs)

He said: “I understand that many of us are feeling anxious about Covid and I want to reassure residents that protecting our community remains our number one priority.

“Part of supporting Watford’s communities during the pandemic also includes looking after people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Parks and outdoor spaces have never been more important, particularly in a town like Watford where we have many individuals and families living in homes without gardens.

“People need places where they can connect with nature, take exercise and also have fun. We will continue to work closely with the community to ensure that people are following guidance on gatherings, social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings.”