THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition calling for a temporary visitors’ ban at Dovestone Reservoir.
Organiser Helen Bishop says the Saddleworth beauty spot should be treated as an “ecologically sensitive area not a theme park”.As the Independent went to press her online document, ‘Close Dovestone Reservoir to the public until serious issues are resolved’, had been signed by 3,280 people.
Greenfield-raised Helen, who stood as an Independent candidate for Saddleworth South in the May 2018 local elections, was moved to act after the moorland fires above Dovestone on Tuesday, June 2.
Critics of any closure argue the popular destination for day trippers is public open space and has been vital for visitors suffering from months of lockdown.
But Helen, a youth and community worker based in Saddleworth for more than 20 years, said: “Some voices say you cannot close access because some people aren’t fortunate to live in a house with garden. I accept that point.
“But what is happening with the fires is that it is preventing some of those people having this place available because it is being ruined.
“Come the nice weather again, I am concerned we are going to see more blazes and all be living in smoke for another summer
“I want someone to step up and take responsibility. It’s about people’s health and well-being as well.
“I don’t think it is a tourist attraction, it is a conservation area, an ecologically sensitive area.
“We have a right to the open air and we have a right to access. Do we have a right to destroy things that are really ecologically important?”Helen’s petition is directed at Oldham Council, landowners United Utilities and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. It states:
• Restrict access to the reservoir and immediate area to the general public immediately
• Address the colossal damage done to the environment by unlimited promotion and access
• Keep it closed until a solid action plan has been implemented to address the issues around dangerous parking, littering, toilet facilities, unleashed dogs and moorland fires
• Put pressure on media groups to be more responsible when promoting the area on social media platforms and consider the consequences.
Helen added: “There is an awful lot of viral marketing for Dovestone across a wide area of North West.
“It is not big enough to take these sorts of numbers with the infrastructure and capacity it has got.
“If someone has travelled 30-40 miles and there is no space in the car park, they are not going to turn around and go back. They will try and park elsewhere.
“This petition is about getting some concrete action from the authorities rather than people coming to have their picture next to it and looking concerned.
“No one has come forward with what they are going to do and how they are going to do it and get on top of problem.”
A spokesperson for United Utilities said: “We don’t recommend closing the entire site as it would generate a lot of complaints.
“Dovestone includes public rights of way and land that has to remain open under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.
“If we just close the car park, people will try to park close by. This then affects the council and police, whose resources are already stretched. But we are working with local partners to find solutions.”
If you would like to sign the petition visit: https://tinyurl.com/ydcmf4ge
• In Blackpool, the local authority rejected a petition containing more than 10,000 names calling for the town’s closure for a month to protect locals from Covid-19 following an influx of tourists as lockdown regulations were lifted.