One of Basingstoke's paddling pools has finally reopened today after months of controversy.

The splash pad at Chineham Park in Popley has reopened today (July 19), as coronavirus restrictions come to an end across England.

The final stage of the roadmap out of lockdown came into effect this morning, with nightclubs reopening and the final restrictions on mass gatherings and face coverings removed for most of the country.

In addition, Basingstoke council has decided to reopen the splash pad in Chineham Park.

The play area, popular among young families, has been closed since 2020 and did not reopen last summer despite government restrictions allowing.

The council were also criticised in recent weeks after they decided to keep it, and the paddling pool in Eastrop Park, closed, whilst reopening play areas across the borough.

Whilst the news will come as a relief to many young families, residents are being warned to be "sensible and respect others".

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet member for the natural environment and climate improvement, Cllr Mark Ruffell said: “With the lifting of the government’s COVID-19 restrictions and the start of the school summer holidays, we expect the Chineham splash pad to be busy after re-opening on Monday 19 July.

“It is good news that we can now re-open this community facility for everyone to enjoy at the start of the school holidays.

"However, it is important that everyone remembers their personal responsibility to keep themselves, their families and others safe during the ongoing pandemic.

"I therefore urge residents to be sensible and respect others when using the facility in order to keep everyone safe.”

Basingstoke council were unable to give an exact date when the Eastrop park paddling pool will reopen, but it is understood this will be in the coming days.

It comes a month after the leader of the borough council said it was “safer” to keep the paddling pools closed to “prevent large gatherings”.

Parents have been pleading with the council to re-open the paddling pool, along with Chineham Park Splash Pad, in Popley, and the fountains by Festival Place, particularly now the weather has become warmer.

Speaking previously, mum Jade Easton said: “We miss Eastrop so much. Some of the best free days out, picnic, swimming and the park. I hope they do open at the end of the month.”

Sarah Hutchings added: “Open it up, let the kids have fun.”

Helen Miles recalled happy memories using the paddling pool as a child, and said: “Let the kids have their fun.”

But Cllr Rhatigan said at the start of June: "The government’s roadmap out of lockdown enabled outdoor pools and water play to reopen on Monday 29 March, with the guidance recommending that the facilities should be regularly cleaned, gatherings restricted to groups of six or two households and records kept of those using such facilities for track and trace purposes.

“The safety of our residents is always the council’s first priority and as these informal facilities are not supervised and due to their design there is no way to control the number of users and no system in place to log those people using it. It was therefore felt that it would be safer to leave the sites closed to prevent large gatherings which could in turn lead to the virus spreading.”

The news comes as Basingstoke continues to experience a heat wave, with temperatures in the high 20s and low 30s expected as the week continues.