Harrow Council says it will consider closing its parks if people continue to flout government rules around social distancing.

Its leader, Cllr Graham Henson, said it could be left with no choice if there is further evidence of group gatherings or people using park equipment that has been sealed off.

He explained that the council has upped its patrols in green spaces across the borough, but stronger powers could come into effect if necessary.

During the weekend’s sunny weather, groups of people were seen using sports courts and meeting up in large groups.

This is despite clear government guidance that people should only leave the house where necessary – for food, medical needs, work or daily exercise.

People have also been told to stay at least two metres away from those outside their household to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

Cllr Henson said: “With the expected surge in Covid-19 infections, it is more important than ever that everyone must stay home unless it’s absolutely essential.

“This crisis is real; it’s affecting thousands of people and people are dying. Even if the weather is tempting, it’s not worth risking your life and the lives of others. If you really have to go out, you must stay two metres away from others.

“We recognise the public health benefits that our parks and open spaces bring to our residents during this challenging time.

“While many are following the Government’s advice, sadly there are a few who are still putting lives at risk by ignoring the ban on gatherings and using cordoned off equipment – some even risking injury by jumping over fences to get into the courts that are locked from use.

“Patrols have been increased at all of our parks and are working closely with the police.

“If people can’t follow the rules, then in the interest of protecting and saving lives we will seriously have to consider closing the parks.

“However, it won’t need to come to this if you just do your bit, stay at home and follow the NHS guidance.”

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s Today this morning (April 6) that individual councils have the power to make decisions around their parks.

He said he believes they should only be closed as a “last resort” and urged local authorities to be “judicious” on the matter.