Dovestone - marshals will remain on site this weekend

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 15 January 2021

The Dovestone marshals will remain at a controversial Saddleworth beauty spot at the weekend, landowners United Utilities have confirmed.

The move comes after visitors ignored appeals to stay away from the Reservoir at Greenfield and filled the car park on Saturday and Sunday a few hours after it opened.

Locals complained of a legal parking and logjams which caused difficulties in them entering and leaving their homes.

Local farmers said gates giving them access to sheep blocked and they could not feed the flock, many who are in lamb.

United Utilities said: "Our reservoir and recreation sites were not as busy over the weekend as they have been previously and it appears that many people are heeding the Government's advice to stay local for their exercise.

“However, it is clear that not everyone is following the advice and we continue to work with our partners and use social media to remind people that they should not be driving long distances to visit beauty spots. 

"We are not planning to close the car parks at our sites because we know from experience that this can simply push the problem of poor parking onto local roads, causing further risks to road safety.

“For now we will continue to fund the traffic marshals at Dovestone at the weekends and we will keep visitor numbers and behaviour under review, along with any changes to Government advice."  

Advice for those planning to visit one of our reservoir sites:

*    If you drive past a park or other green space to reach our sites you are travelling too far - please stay local
*    Strict social distancing is in force to protect you and our employees
*    Follow the Countryside Code - respect wildlife and take your litter home with you
*    No camping, fires or barbecues are allowed.

Dovestone was a sounding board for what was happening at sites across the wider community after validating reports from other areas at the weekend of crowds ignoring covid restrictions.

Meanwhile, campaigning MP Debbie Abrahams is seeking clarity on travelling during covid after scores of motorists invaded Dovestone last weekend.

In a message to Dovestone lovers, the Oldham East and Saddleworth MP said: “Unfortunately, with the third lockdown announced last week by the Prime Minister, once again we’ve seen more antisocial behaviour and flagrant flouting of Covid restrictions at Dovestone with social distancing being ignored, and people clearly exercising with more than one person outside their household and not exercising locally. 

“This is hugely disappointing given the seriousness of the pandemic and the new, more infectious Covid variant we are seeing here in Oldham and Saddleworth.

“The consultation for a ‘community led visitor strategy’ includes many elements which are designed to address the issues identified by many residents, including the potential for electronic signage, CCTV and modified car parking in a bid to tackle anti-social behaviour, inconsiderate parking, and increased littering.

“Clearly a long-term solution to this ongoing problem for people living near Dovestone needs to be found.

“Unfortunately, the problem with so many people visiting the area, because it’s so beautiful, is clearly being exacerbated by the vagaries of the Government’s guidelines during this new lockdown, and in particular what constitutes ‘not travelling outside your local area’ for exercise.

“I will be writing to the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, asking as part of their regular review of their guidelines they give the public, and police who have to enforce the rules, clearer guidance on what is and what is not acceptable during the pandemic, as they did in the first lockdown last March.

“I’ll also be asking United Utilities, as the owners of the private land around the reservoir, as well as other organisations, to look closely at the messaging on their websites and other social media platforms, which could inadvertently be contravening the guidelines by encouraging people who don’t live locally to visit the area.”

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