Visitors are starting to return to Keswick despite the national lockdown – and there is nothing the police can do about it in many cases.
That is the message from the town’s mayor Cllr David Burn in his latest weekly update on how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting life in Keswick.
He said: “A number of people, including other town councillors, have told me they are seeing more and more unfamiliar faces in the town. Elaine and I go out for a walk or a cycle every day and we too believe that visitors have started coming back to Keswick.
“I have raised these concerns with the police who themselves say there are definitely walkers and cars about but it seems that the Crown Prosecution Service have produced a practical guide as to what may or may not constitute a ‘reasonable excuse’ to leave the place where you live and this guide is being used to help police officers.
“The guide says that ‘driving to countryside and walking (where far more time is spent walking than driving)’ is likely to be reasonable. Our local police are following this guidance and say they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on were they to challenge every walker they see. So as unpalatable as it seems, I think we can expect to see this trend continuing.
“However, we still have the good weather and our community, as ever, is continuing to pull together. Our thanks go to everyone.”
Newly-introduced national coronavirus legislation has generally given the impression that members of the public can only leave their homes if “essential” to do so. This would cover broad activities like food shopping or exercise but not visiting towns like Keswick as a tourist.
While the official guidance states that driving for a prolonged period with only brief exercise is not likely to be reasonable, it is reasonable if people spend more time walking than driving. Walking in the countryside and stopping to rest or to eat lunch while on a long walk are also both “likely to be reasonable”. So there would not appear to be anything to prevent people, for example, driving 30 or 40 miles in to the Lake District to go for an hour’s walk or more on the fells and calling in to shop in Keswick before or after.
Meanwhile, the mayor said Keswick Town Council was continuing to put pressure on Allerdale Borough Council to restore local garden waste collections as soon as possible. He said: “I wrote to Allerdale’s chief executive Andrew Seekings about this earlier this week and suggested that even a one-off collection would be helpful.
“I was told that Allerdale had been in touch with the new waste and recycling contractor to ask if this would be possible and had been told that as the contractor had only just taken over this service, they are still reviewing capacity. Allerdale told me they have weekly meetings with the contractor and that the matter of garden waste collections will be kept under review. I will make sure Allerdale do so.”