Protecting community spaces during COVID-19 lockdown

Posted On 15 Jul 2020
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When national lockdown was announced on 23 March the Government issued clear guidance about the closure of certain businesses and venues in England to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Under the guidance, it was advised that Community centres could stay open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary activities and urgent public services, such as food banks, homeless services, and blood donation sessions, providing that Public Health England hygiene and safety guidelines are followed, maintaining a distance of two metres.

Elmbridge Borough Council operates seven Centres for the Community, which aim to promote an active and full life for elderly or disabled residents. These centres provide a range of leisure activities and opportunities to learn new skills including art and craft classes, iPad training, hairdressing and beauty treatments, exercise classes, and catering services.

Under a review of its public spaces and venues during lockdown, Elmbridge Borough Council made a decision to temporarily close its Thames Ditton Community Centre. Shortly after it was closed, the Council received reports that trespassers had been seen around the property and had attempted to break in.

Thames Ditton Community Centre

Security specialists SafeSite Security Solutions were called in to secure the centre and make it safe while it was empty. This involved securing all entry points to the building, including doors and ground floor windows.

Steel screens and steel doors were used to secure access points and prevent intrusion. Where steel screens could not be used, such as on metal window frames, timber frames were constructed to minimise damage to the existing frames. Steel sheets were then inserted into the timber frames, providing a solid protective barrier.

Security screens are the single most effective way to prevent squatters, vandals and other unwanted visitors entering and devaluing vacated sites and buildings. Leaving the windows and doors of an empty property un-boarded allows would-be thieves to see inside, putting not only the fabric of the building but also the contents within at risk.

Security screens are an ideal solution when security measures are only required on a short-term basis. Elmbridge Borough Council hired the products, making them a cost-effective solution.

Commenting on the project, a spokesperson from Elmbridge Borough Council said: “It’s always a difficult decision to withdraw access to our community spaces, and the temporary closure of our Thames Ditton Community Centre was no exception. However, the government has given clear guidance on self-isolation, advising citizens to stay at home and away from others, to reduce the spread of coronavirus. We know that the services we provide out of the Community Centre are a lifeline to many residents. That’s why it’s so important that we protect and secure the Centre now so that when we are able to safely open again, we can continue to offer these services in the future. It was really heartening to receive such a positive and professional response from SafeSite Security Solutions during this difficult time.”

“After the country went into lockdown, we were inundated with enquiries from local authorities and commercial property owners forced to shut their venues and businesses who wanted to know how best to protect their premises”, said Gabriella Pemberton, General Manager, SafeSite Security Solutions.

“Many, like Elmbridge Borough Council, were understandably concerned about the risk of vandalism, theft, and intrusion by squatters during the enforced closure.

“Venues and spaces left unsecured can be a green light to unscrupulous intruders and squatters. That’s why we’re urging site managers and property owners to consider taking temporary security measures, to mitigate these risks, and we are committed to providing the most efficient and effective ways of doing this during this challenging time.”