A “Keswick Is Still Closed” campaign which successfully kept visitors away from the town last weekend to help protect its residents from coronavirus has now caused a rift among local councillors
Signs were put up at five locations on major roads into the town asking people to come back when Keswick was open – but not everyone was happy with the initiative, which had been led by Keswick mayor Cllr David Burn and funded by Keswick Community Asset Company (KCAC).
All five roadside signs were removed by unknown people who obviously disagreed with the message and were happy for visitors to come into the town centre despite most businesses being closed on the first weekend after the easing of lockdown in England.
Cllr Alan Dunn picked up on the issue, saying he was unhappy that the signs, which cost several hundred pounds, had been put up without any formal agreement from Keswick Town Council and paid for by not-for-profit KCAC that runs the town’s pay-to-use public toilets
“It is bothering me. I think this has to stop,” said Cllr Dunn at Thursday night’s town council meeting when he likened the use of the signs to the actions of “vigilantes,” adding: “They reflect on all of us, even those who weren’t part of the decision-making process.”
Cllr Burn defended the campaign along with his actions and those of fellow councillors who run KCAC, saying: “We had to move quickly after Boris Johnson changed the advice that people could travel anywhere to exercise.” He said Cllr Dunn was among those who had been consulted and added that a similar message, backed by Cumbria’s police and public health leaders, had been issued about the Lake District for the same weekend.
“I am sorry if anyone was offended. We did what we thought was right for the town. A lady stopped me today (Thursday) and said ‘can I just thank you. We are not ready to have visitors back’. It was done with the best of intentions,” added Cllr Burn, who confirmed that the signs would not be replaced.
Cllr Duncan Muiller summed up the row by saying: “It was probably done for the best intentions. Let’s be careful in the future.”
Speaking afterwards, KCAC chairman Cllr Tony Lywood said: “Four hundred people have died in Cumbria from coronavirus so far and the signs and the message they got across were the right thing at the right time.”