Cotswold Wildlife Park attack lockdown rules will cost him £ 2million

THE director of one of Oxfordshire’s biggest tourist attractions has slammed the government for its ‘illogical’ road map out of lockdown after it emerged it should remain closed until after Easter – missing the period busiest of the year.

The Cotswold Wildlife Park, near Burford, is a popular spot for local families and tourists. But although the outdoor zoological park covers more than 100 hectares, it was prevented, under the conditions of the road map unveiled by the Prime Minister on Monday, from opening until April 12.

Park owner Reggie Heyworth – the son of zoo founder John – described the move as a ‘disaster’ which would cost the park around £ 2million.

He said: “We are really grappling with this illogical and unfair decision. We firmly believe that we should never have been closed in the first place. We have acres of space with beautiful countryside and gardens here, just what everyone needs to give their natural systems a boost.

“We have proven that we can limit the numbers and ensure that people have a safe, relaxing and socially distant day with us. It is not essential for us to have open indoor facilities, like shops or other pressure points, and people can spend the whole day with us, with the animals and the gardens and get away from them all. the pressures of Covid and all modern things. life launches us.

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“We really should be open right now and it’s just vicious that we have to stay closed until after Easter and it’s even crazier when you think that the whole time the garden centers have been staying open. We are more like an arboretum – which can already open – than an urban zoo.

“For businesses like the Cotswold Wildlife Park, losing another Easter is almost a disaster. It is our busiest time of the year. I am certain that on the current trajectories of hospitalizations and death rates linked to Covid, there would be no danger for our visitors to come here for a socially distanced visit during the Easter holidays. ”

The park, which has 145 full-time employees, is one of the county’s largest private sector employers. Even closed it costs £ 10,000 a day.

Mr Heyworth said: “We cannot not take care of animals. We survive on our reserves, but they are running out.

Rare Wolverine triplets finally emerge from their lair in Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Hayley Beer-Gamage, Managing Director of Experience Oxfordshire, said other companies shared Mr Heyworth’s frustration.

She said: “I think from a tourism business perspective they are disappointed. They wish they could have opened earlier and I think missing Easter was a real concern for a lot of companies. They make a quarter to a third of their annual turnover during the Easter period.

“They are particularly disappointed when many tourist attractions and hotels have invested a lot of money to keep Covid safe. ”

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Ms Beer-Gamage added that Experience Oxfordshire was calling on the government to continue financial support measures for businesses for the remainder of the year.

These include the VAT exemption, the trade rate relief scheme, and a form of holiday scheme that would target certain sectors, such as tourism businesses, which have been unable to open longer than d ‘others.

She added: “We have to remember from a visitor economy perspective that we are not just working from March 23 of last year; many of these businesses began to feel the effects of Covid in January 2020. It was the first sector to be affected by the pandemic and it will be the last to reopen. ”

A four-step program to unlock the country was presented by Mr Johnson, who told MPs “the end is really in sight”.

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He said he hoped the unlock would be “slow and irreversible”. However, he added that the dates for the four stages were guidelines, with the plan being guided by “data, not dates.”

He also said he couldn’t rule out regional shutdowns in the future, like the Tier system used last year.

Reggie Hayworth at Cotswold Wildlife Park by Heidi Crundwell

Reggie Heyworth at Cotswold Wildlife Park by Heidi Crundwell

The first stage begins on March 8 with the reopening of schools. People will also be allowed to meet another person socially. Further relaxation will take place on March 29, when the school Easter holidays begin – with larger groups of six people or two households allowed to congregate in parks and gardens, but retail businesses, libraries and businesses d non-essential outdoor hospitality, such as beer gardens. , zoos and theme parks will not be able to open until April 12 at the earliest.

In the third stage, which will not start until at least May 17, the rules will be relaxed so that groups of 30 people can meet outside or up to six people or two households can meet at the interior.

Indoor hospitality venues can then reopen, including stadiums and theaters with limited crowds.

In the last stage, which will not be before June 21, all limits will be removed and clubs will be able to reopen.

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