Hemel Hempstead woman calls for Government to rethink decision not to open ice rinks

The planned re-opening of ice rinks was postponed on Friday

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 3:29 pm

A woman from Hemel Hempstead is raising awareness of the need to re-open ice skating rinks.

Karen Hartshorne was left frustrated by the news that ice skating rinks would not be allowed to re-open on Saturday, August 1, which was announced less than 24 hours before her daughter was due to resume her figure skating at Planet Ice in Jarman Park.

In a statement on Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "On Saturday 1 August, you’ll remember, we had hoped to reopen in England a number of higher risk settings that had remained closed. Today, I am afraid we are postponing these changes for at least a fortnight.

"That means that, until 15 August at the earliest:

"Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and remaining close contact services must remain closed. Indoor performances will not resume.

"Pilots of larger crowds in sports venues and conference centres will not take place.

"Wedding receptions of up to 30 people will not be permitted, but ceremonies can continue to take place, in line with COVID-Secure guidelines."

Genevieve and Emily at Gadebridge Park

Karen's daughter Genevieve, 13, regularly practices at Planet Ice in Hemel Hempstead and she has competed in local competitions.

While the ice rinks have been closed, Genevieve and her friend, Emily, have been training in off-ice skates at Gadebridge Car Park.

Karen said: "This is the third time the Government has not allowed the ice rinks to open. This is an Olympic Sport.

"How can the Government justify opening pubs where it has been reported there is very little social distancing, crowded beaches, driving instructors sitting next to clients and an ice rink can not open when they have always social distanced!

Genevieve and Emily skating at the rink

"It is frustrating that this has happened again, other sports are allowed to go ahead, but ice skating rinks are not allowed to re-open.

"Planet Ice had all the Covid-19 safety measures in place, they had social distancing, maximum capacity, cashless payments, online booking only and hand sanitisers.

"The coaches had worked out session slots, it was all booked online.

"The children would be in their bubbles on the ice and only they would be on there for the sessions, they had a limit on the capacity.

"I do understand it but it is frustrating for my 13-year-old daughter that she can not figure skate but her brother can play a contact sport like football.

"The children are desperate to get back on the ice, and it is frustrating for them."

In a statement on the Planet Ice website, it says: "After the Government Announcement on Friday July 31st Planet Ice would like to take this opportunity to thank our customers for their patience and understanding at this time. Unfortunately, we have no power to control or affect the decision made to keep rinks closed.

"We understand this news has been met with disappointment and frustration and Planet Ice share your emotions at this time.

"All of our staff have worked so hard over the last few days to get the buildings ready for the opening on Saturday 1st August and I know I speak for everyone in our industry when I say how upset we are by this decision. The Prime Minister has indicated that we could provisionally re-open in two weeks’ time on Saturday 15th August and Planet Ice will work towards that date."

Karen and Emily's mum, Tracy Macgregor have written to their local MP, Sir Mike Penning, and they are trying to petition the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport to re-think their decision.

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning said: "We want to get them open as soon as possible. I am sure the company has all the measures in place to make them safe for everyone.

"I heard yesterday that the Snow Centre will be allowed to reopen this week, so slowly they are re-opening. Hopefully ice rinks will be able to open as soon as possible, people need that leisure activity."

In a Tweet on Friday, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden, (@OliverDowden) tweeted: "PM has confirmed we cannot go ahead with some easings planned for 1st August - we are hoping for a postponement of a fortnight. This means bowling alleys, ice rinks, casinos cannot yet reopen and indoor performances cannot now go ahead from tomorrow."

There are hashtags trending on social media for ice rinks to be allowed to re-open #backontheice #sportnotleisure #overlookedolympicsport, and there is an online petition, 'Open Our Ice Rinks', which has over 4,000 signatures.

The petition says: "Please support us in changing how the government looks at our Sport. They do not see us as being serious.

"We need to be seen as an Olympic sport, because that's what we are! We are not in the 'leisure' spectrum. We are fighting for this, for all our skaters, coaches and parents!

"They deserve the chance to get back to what they love and miss!

"Ice rinks are not in a refrigerated environment as many people believe so there isn’t a cause for any virus spread.

"All social distancing procedures and hand cleaning stations are in place to be Covid safe and all rinks would be running with limited skaters on the ice at any one time."