Leaving the cave...
This blog is one of a series we are producing to share what we are seeing happening inside public bodies and outside in the world around us. All our staff are involved in collating information from across Wales via SenseMaker questionnaire software that helps us collect and analyse this knowledge. Our aim is to share learning from what we have found to help public bodies recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic forced Wales into lockdown back in March and our public services have been rapidly responding to this ever-changing world since; learning as they went, trying to balance the safety of their staff and citizens whilst continuing to deliver crucial services. Some things we took for granted were denied to us – a simple walk in a local park, a quick play on the swings, an impromptu picnic or a kick about, and there was certainly no easy solution if you wanted to ‘spend a penny’! Our outdoor spaces effectively had to ‘close up shop’ and we all had to go home; Wales hunkered down waiting for better days.
The pandemic has affected all of us and getting out and enjoying open spaces is a good way for us to boost our wellbeing. But as we are allowed to venture out of our homes is it that simple? What has changed and what can we expect when we next go to our old favourite places or explore new ones?
Open spaces are important. The Association for Public Service Excellence calculated that councils get from £32 billion of social value from UK open spaces¹. The three National Parks in Wales deliver health benefits for the nation. They give people direct physical and mental health benefits, protect the national environment for future generations, and help improve air quality.²
Welsh Government guidance on visiting places [opens in new window] set out what is currently allowed. Outdoor visitor attractions and most indoor attractions are now allowed to be open. This includes historic houses, visitor centres and other indoor attractions. Social and physical distancing requirements remain in place and attractions are required to take all reasonable measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. The guidance recognises that some areas have limits on car parking or road closures in order to manage visitor numbers. Welsh Government advises researching the local position before travelling. It also remains sensible to avoid areas you would expect to be crowded or busy times. All outdoor sport and leisure facilities are now allowed to be open. The operators of these grounds and facilities must take all reasonable measures to manage risk and maintain physical distancing. Playgrounds were allowed to re-open from 20 July.
So, whilst we are now in a phased reopening of our open spaces it is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and local lockdowns may need to be introduced, so what have our public services learnt during their journey through a scary, challenging period that can be shared with others for the future? And what do those changes mean for us and our open spaces? The Welsh Government have provided a lot of guidance [opens in new window] for businesses reopening and councils across Wales have adopted and adapted to these new measures. We highlight some of what’s been learnt in our brief tour around Wales…
About the Author:
Lisa Ridley has worked for Audit Wales and its predecessor bodies since 1992. She currently works within the Local Government Performance Audit team. Prior to this, Lisa has worked in Financial Audit and Corporate Services, giving her experience across a wide range of corporate and public audit topics, and experience of internal/external audit, inspection and investigation work. As well as being a qualified member of AAT, she is also is currently a part-time English Literature & Creative Writing undergraduate.
Steve Frank is a senior auditor with Audit Wales working on various national studies and local audits. Steve spent 10 years working for the Audit Commission leaving in 2011 as the National Lead for Fire managing a core budget of £1.8 million and portfolio of 46 clients. Steve has worked for Audit Scotland, Serco, the Home Office and London Fire Brigade. This plethora of experience gives him unique insights into UK wide public policy making and delivery. Steve has a master’s degree in business and administration (MBA), a first-class honours degree in Architecture from University College London, he is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and has recently been awarded a fellowship of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.