Nottingham has closed two parks after “appalling scenes” of large crowds left “disgraceful” litter in several cities across the UK following the easing of Covid-19 restrictions.
Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen said the city’s Arboretum and Lenton Recreation Ground were closed on Wednesday due to “the actions of a thoughtless minority”.
A dispersal order was put in place at the Arboretum as footage posted on social media captured a brawl, dozens of people drinking, ignoring social distancing rules and leaving behind large amounts of litter.
Mr Mellen said: “We have taken steps to prevent a repeat of the appalling scenes we witnessed at the Arboretum on Monday evening.
“Today, the Arboretum is closed along with Lenton Recreation Ground where similar problems arose.
“We regret having to take this action, since everyone has been looking forward to the chance to visit our parks, now that easing of restrictions means we can meet up to six other people outdoors. Sadly, the actions of a thoughtless minority has spoilt that.
“We will keep the situation under review and hope to reopen parks as soon as possible. The Forest recreation ground remains open and is a larger, safer space where people can spread out more easily.
“It is unacceptable and unsustainable for our already thinly stretched crews to have to be redeployed from work in communities across our city to clear up mess left behind at our parks.
“We have added extra bins – and we implore people to take their rubbish away with them if these become full and dispose of it responsibly.
“At our other parks, we have increased patrols of community protection officers who along with police officers will continue to rigorously enforce the ban on drinking in public spaces that’s in place across Nottingham.
“None of this would be necessary if people took their own personal responsibility seriously, especially at a time when we need to be much more cautious in the way we behave and follow the gradual lifting of restrictions, if we are to hope to put this pandemic behind us.”
Police in Birmingham said no fines were issued at the city’s Cannon Hill Park despite large crowds and “music and lighting being set up”.
Adam Jones, from Moseley, Birmingham, said he saw a “couple of thousand” at the park while walking with his girlfriend on Tuesday evening.
“It has been noticeably busier since restrictions eased but yesterday was really busy,” the 27-year-old told the PA news agency.
“While there was a fair few people in small groups respecting distancing, they were overshadowed by lots of big groups, sometimes up to 20/25 people, blaring music.
“We did one lap of the park and by the time we were leaving it looked like a festival.
“How it looked this morning was disgraceful – so much rubbish that a council worker estimated it would take the whole team most of the day to clear.”
Superintendent Farooq Sheikh, of Birmingham East police, said: “We had officers at Cannon Hill Park yesterday following social posts suggesting that an organised gathering was planned.
“Later on in the evening, the numbers increased and music and lighting equipment had been set up.
“We had a number of complaints from residents about traffic building up around the area.
“The crowds were good-natured and engaged with officers, and the park was all clear by 11.30pm. Officers did not need to issue any fines.
“We will have extra police officers in the area today who will be able to use our powers to quickly break up any gatherings that put people’s health at risk.”
Some of the grass-mowing planned across Birmingham’s parks was suspended so council workers could focus on litter-picking.
A city council spokesman said: “Sadly scenes like this are not unique to Birmingham – they have been witnessed across the country since the easing of the lockdown guidance.
“We of course want people to enjoy our parks and the good weather – but everyone needs to stay safe, follow the latest Covid-19 guidance and tidy up after themselves.
“The police are in a position to deal with any breaches of the current coronavirus regulations.”
A huge litter-picking operation also started at 6am on Wednesday in Sheffield, with the city council posting a video of litter strewn across Endcliffe Park.
The council tweeted: “We know people have missed socialising in the sun but this is not what is meant by easing out of lockdown.
“(Maintenance workers) have been out since 6am clearing up but our resources could be much better spent.
“Enjoy (parks in Sheffield) but don’t leave your mess, please love our parks.”
There were also litter problems on Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, as 26-year-old PhD student Sophie Meredith told PA: “It’s really disgusting that people left their litter piled up by the bins and across the grass, and it’s an issue that happens every time there’s a hot day in Leeds.
“Today was the worst I’ve ever seen it, and it’s probably made worse by the fact that everyone’s been cooped up for a year, and there’s not enough bins in that park and they hadn’t been emptied for a few days prior.”