POLITICIANS have given a cautious welcome to the relaxation of rules for visiting Wharfedale's beauty spots.

Leeds City Council issued updated guidelines this week about what visitors can, and cannot, do at its parks and other green spaces during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Among the sites that will be affected are Otley Chevin Forest Park, Wharfemeadows Park and Golden Acre Park, at Bramhope.

Locally the changes, part of a national relaxation of some lockdown restrictions that are being introduced from Wednesday, May 13, mean that:

*Car parks at council parks are reopening but their playgrounds will remain closed, with the gates locked and notices in place

*Multi use games areas in parks will reopen

*Fishing, plus the use of bowling greens, will be allowed.

Outdoor gym equipment will remain off limits, however, and toilet facilities will stay closed - while Leeds City Council is reminding park visitors that they must 'strictly adhere' to the 2m social distancing rule.

People are now also free to exercise more than once a day, meet a friend from another household outdoors so long as they maintain social distancing, and drive elsewhere for outdoor activity.

Some fear the changes could see popular spots across the country inundated by visitors, making social distancing almost impossible.

MP Alex Sobel, Labour's Shadow Tourism and Heritage Secretary, has some concerns but is more hopeful. He said: "I broadly welcome the decision to reopen car parks in light of the new rules.

"This is particularly good news for those with disabilities or mobility issues for whom accessing parks and green space has been very difficult.

"That said, it is vital that social distancing measures are adhered to. This has not been made easier by the confusing messaging around this from central Government."

Councillor Barry Anderson (Con, Adel & Wharfedale) said: "I am cautiously optimistic about the reopening of the parks and games areas but I really welcome it as I think we were getting to the stage where patience is starting to wear thin.

"Everyone will be relieved but I think they will also be sensible. Golden Acre Park, for example, will probably be very busy with cars now and certainly the message I would like to give is that people remain socially distanced but take the opportunity to use the parks again.

"Everyone has a part to play in ensuring they remain safe and don’t forget we are still in a very precarious stage of this terrible virus. With common sense and a bit of thought everyone can get something out of this but if things go wrong we’ll be back to square one so it is in everyone’s best interests to cooperate with the guidelines."

Councillor Colin Campbell (Lib Dem, Otley & Yeadon) also sounded a note of caution. He said: "There is still a major risk from COVID-19 and I have some concerns that if people do not act sensibly this relaxation could cause issue.

"That said if people act responsibly and maintain social distancing, particularly in car parks, I hope everything will be OK.

"Time in lockdown is very depressing and the ability to get out for a bit of fresh air is important, but I would urge everyone to be careful."