POLICE are warning motorists to steer clear of visiting one of Oldham’s favourite beauty spots saying they will use emergency powers to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The move comes after police spent the weekend turning would be visitors away from Dovestone Reservoir at Greenfield which a week earlier had been the centre of chaotic scenes with gridlocked car parks.
And although the area now has gates, a significant number of travellers tried to gain access to the rolling moors which fringes the Peak District National park managed by United Utilities, the RSPB and Oldham Council.
Police Sergeant Paul Heap, of GMP’s Oldham division, said: “This is a particularly challenging time and we want to do all that we can to make sure those most at risk within our communities are protected.
“This means policing with the fundamental principle of consent and to police with the support of the public.
“We are encouraging people to follow the Government’s advice to stay at home and to save the lives of our loved ones. This means only leaving the house for a limited number of reasons and for essential journeys.
“We understand people want to get out and exercise once a day, and we would encourage people to exercise locally to them and practice social distancing responsibly.
“We do not wish to see people wilfully flouting Government advice and congregating in large numbers at beauty spots such as Dovestone. By doing so, you are at risk of spreading the virus and are putting people’s lives at risk.
“Where necessary and where proportionate, we will use emergency powers to enforce new legislation. However, this isn’t something we want to do.
‘We want to work with communities and hope they understand that social gatherings of this kind put extra pressure on already stretched emergency services. Please act responsibly and help us, to help you.”
Meantime, quick action by farmer Chris Crowther saw a blaze peter out on the moors over the weekend before the arrival of firefighters.
But the farming community have expressed mounting concerns over visitors as it is the beginning of lambing season and dogs off leads are a threat to flocks.
And Cllr Jamie Curley, chair of Saddleworth Parish Council, said: “Shutting the car parks, police presence on Saturday and patrols on Sunday has seemingly had the desired effect of persuading people to stay at home as directed by the Government.
“The message of ‘stay home, protect the NHS, save lives’ does appear to be getting through. The deputy chief medical officer said it may be six months until we get back to normal, but the more people adhere to the guidance now, the sooner we may be able to do so and the more lives will be saved.”
But angry locals took to social media to attack day trippers accusing them of irresponsibility and putting lives at risk.
The Peak District National Park thanked visitors for staying away but urged rights of way remain open for key workers and residents.