Rock cake health and safety inspection prompts park volunteer resignation (From East London and West Essex Guardian Series)
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Claire Marriott of Friends of Elmhurst Gardens steps down after health and safety inspector visits Easter egg hunt and asks questions about rock cakes
Questions over the health and safety of a plate of rock cakes at a children's Easter egg hunt proved too much for the chairwoman of a park volunteers group.
Claire Marriott, 43, stepped down as chair of the Friends of Elmhurst Gardens after an environmental health inspector demanded she fill in a series of forms relating to homebaked treats on sale at the event in the South Woodford park.
Miss Marriott set up the group in 2007 and has overseen the transformation of the once dilapidated park in South Woodford into a valued open space which has earned Green Flag status.
She said: “I work full-time and had been considering my position because I need to devote a bit more time to my own life.
“But I suppose you could say that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
An environmental health inspector phoned Miss Marriott the day before the Easter egg hunt but was unable to get through.
Miss Marriott attempted to return the call but could not reach the inspector who arrived at the park while the Easter egg hunt was in progress with a wad of health and safety forms.
Miss Marriott said: “My mum, Doris, was selling some homemade rock cakes and the inspector said ‘Have you got public liability insurance for those?’
“We just looked at each other and my mum said to me ‘Is it worth it, Claire?’
“The inspector was taking photos, it took a long time to fill in all the forms. It was wet and miserable. I just thought, ‘You know what, I give up.’”
Miss Marriott has asked for a volunteer to take over, but so far nobody has stepped up.
She said: “That means the group is now on ice. The summer fair we had planned won’t happen unless someone organises it.
“Bill, our wonderful park keeper will keep up the planting activities with the local schools, but with all the red tape it’s just taking over my life and I can’t devote my whole life to it.”
Frank Collins of The Maybank Community Association was in the park when the inspector turned up.
He said: “I think the health and safety inspector giving her such a grilling really got her uptight.
“It’s very sad that she is stepping down. We will do our bit to help clear up in the park, but I don’t have the time to take on the running of the group.”
Miss Marriott is asking for people to step forward to help keep the Friends Group alive.
She said: “We have some wonderful members but many of them are either too old or have young kids and can’t devote the time necessary to run the group.”
Roding ward councillor Ian Bond said: “We will do our best to see if we can find some residents to take up the baton.
“Claire has done a wonderful job and it’s sad to see her go.”
A spokeswoman for Redbridge Council said: "An Environmental Health Officer attended this event and inspected the stalls as part of the service’s Outdoor Events Assessment programme.
"We carry out these inspections to ensure the safety of any food served and the general health & safety provisions for members of the public attending.
"Where possible, we try to make these checks as unobtrusive as possible and in proportion to the scale of the event, but inspection record forms do need to be filled in.
"These are mainly completed by the inspector and then counter-signed by the stallholder.
"Officers attend to check legislation is being followed, to regulate and offer advice to safeguard both stallholders and members of the public attending the events.
"With regard to this event, some advice was given to the stallholders but no other action was taken."
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