Closing parks and open spaces in the UK amid the coronavirus lockdown should be an “absolute last resort”, the communities secretary has said.
Robert Jenrick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that local councils should be “very judicious” in taking such a step, as he implored people to stay inside.
One London authority closed a park on Sunday, saying thousands of people had flouted guidance during warm weather.
Lambeth Council said Brockwell Park was “open as usual” on Monday.
Mr Jenrick told the programme that he has “a lot of sympathy” with those concerned that public confidence could be lost by people in power with ample space telling those in crowded homes they cannot use parks or exercise outside.
He added: “This is [the councils] decision, but I have asked them to be very judicious in taking that step and only to do that where they feel it is impossible to maintain social distancing rules within their parks or open spaces.
“I think that is what motivated them over the weekend.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Jenrick said that “no council wants to close parks and open spaces”.
“That really is an absolute last resort and should be because we want people to be able to go out and have exercise,” he said.
He added that exercise should be done responsibly, in accordance with guidelines.
“It is not to congregate with other people, to have a barbeque or a picnic and to put people’s lives in danger by breaching the social distancing rules,” he said.
Mr Jenrick said the “vast majority” of people were adhering to social distancing guidelines, but added: “The small minority who are not doing so, please don’t spoil things for everybody else.”
The communities secretary also insisted there were no “imminent plans” to impose tougher social distancing measures, after the health secretary, Matt Hancock, warned that outside exercise could be banned.
“It would be very unfortunate if we had to do so and make it harder for people, particularly people who live in flats in towns and cities, to get the exercise they deserve,” he said.
And he suggested that measures could be relaxed before long if the “excess capacity” in NHS intensive care units can be maintained.
Brockwell Park in south-east London was closed on Sunday, with Lambeth Council saying 3,000 people, many sunbathing or in large groups, had visited on Saturday.
Meanwhile, police moved on more than 100 people in north London’s Primrose Hill on Saturday and rules were breached on the south coast.
However, the consensus in government is that the public are largely obeying the rules.