Following significant pressure from the CLA and Historic Houses, the Government has now produced updated COVID-19 guidance to allow private gardens to open to the public.
The Government’s roadmap on May 10 clearly stated that “outdoor ticketed attractions”, which included gardens, could not be opened to the general public as part of the first step in easing the lockdown. This was despite clear scientific evidence that the rate of infection is significantly lower outside than indoors.
Both organisations raised this anomaly with DCMS and Defra, pointing out that the Government was allowing garden centres to open but not gardens. The Presidents of the CLA and Historic Houses wrote to the Rural Affairs Minister, Lord Gardiner and the Tourism Minister, Nigel Huddleston, asking the Government to think again.
The revised guidance now states that members of the public can “visit gardens and land maintained for public use as an alternative open space to spend time outdoors, although buildings and amenities such as cafes will remain closed and access may be limited to members or those with tickets to ensure social distancing. You should check ahead and follow social distancing guidelines”. Entrance fees can be charged.
Director General of the CLA Sarah Hendry said: “I am delighted that Government has listened to industry calls and taken what is clearly a pragmatic step forward. Thousands of people will now be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of visiting a garden, whilst – of course – adhering to social distancing rules. Of course, garden owners must recognise their responsibility to follow government’s hygiene and social distancing rules, and conduct a full risk assessment before they open. Members should get in touch with the CLA if they need further assistance.”