THE chief executive of the Peak District national park has issued a plea for people to stay away during the coronavirus crisis and has announced the area is now closed.

Sarah Fowler's open letter shared with the media echoed the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's address to the nation on Monday, which spelled out wide-ranging and unprecedented restrictions on the movement of the public during the pandemic.

She said of Mr Johnson's address: “He clearly and starkly spelled out what all of us need to do; stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives.

"That’s why today we have closed all of our National Park Authority offices, ranger hubs and visitor facilities including car parks.

‘I have also asked our staff remain at home, unless undertaking essential safety tasks, in line with strict government guidance.

“It is now absolutely critical for our Peak District communities, businesses, farmers and key workers within the National Park that we all take these measures extremely seriously.

‘Which is why as well as us taking action I ask all our partners and many communities also to follow the government’s measures to the letter; ensuring that we do not put undue and unnecessary pressure on often limited local services and emergency personnel.

She went on: “As a chief executive and passionate advocate for all that our national parks stand for, it seemed almost unthinkable that we would arrive at a situation where I have, and must, ask those who do not live in, or work on essential services in, the Peak District to please stay away.

“We have weathered many challenges in our almost 70 year history and, when the time is right, we will once again welcome everyone to this place which so many millions of us love and hold dear.

“It is so often in these extraordinary circumstances that we learn the importance of nature, beauty and history to our health and sense of wellbeing. That’s why I feel so strongly that our individual efforts now to take on this battle against coronavirus are so important – so that we may once again be able to let nature help our personal and collective recovery.

“As we enter this period of unprecedented uncertainty, I ask everyone to heed the government’s advice and any information provided by the National Park Authority on the ground.

“I wish good health to you all and your families.”

Councillor Jamie Curley chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, said he was not surprised by Ms Fowler's announcement and comments.

"They underline the immense seriousness of this situation and it is right that we call this a national emergency.

"I am well aware of the crowds flocking to Dovestone over the weekend and while I sympathise with the desire to get out and enjoy a beautiful spring day it threw into focus behaviour that one cabinet minister described as 'bordering on criminal irresponsibility'.

“People should heed the message now, the country is in a serious situation and you should follow the government's warnings - stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”