United Utilities ‘no’ to temporary reservoir closure

WATER bosses have poured cold water on renewed calls for a temporary public closure of Dovestone Reservoir.

Nearly 3,500 people have signed an online petition asking for the Saddleworth beauty spot to be off limits until issues over traffic congestion, littering and fire risk are resolved.A return of the hot weather has raised further fears over the area’s ability to cope with the influx of thousands of visitors.

Councillors are seeking “urgent” talks with high ranking officials of United Utilities (UU) as the company is largely responsible for managing the site.

Saddleworth South Councillor Graham Sheldon supports a ban on day trippers while a master plan is drawn-up to deal with unprecedented numbers visiting the area.

But UU have told the Independent they won’t agree to any request for ‘lockdown’.

Cllr Sheldon told the virtual June Parish Council meeting: “I have suggested they put a closure on Dovestone until we can put in safe parking and have safe parking in greenfield.

“They did it at Stonehenge for the summer solstice because they knew they would get too many people.

“Unless we can make sure our roads are safe in Greenfield I am suggesting we go to them (United Utilities) and say ‘close it until you have it sorted out’.”

The recent introduction of double yellow lines on Holmfirth Road and several side roads has led to parking problems closer to the village centre.

Some residents claim they have been abused when asking motorists to move their vehicles.

The introduction of residents’ parking permits has been offered as one solution while freeing up fields close to Dovestone for overspill car parks has been another proposal.

Oldham Council is looking to initiate increased rubbish collections around the reservoir as well employing extra enforcement staff.

Parish Council chair and OMBC councillor Jamie Curley said: “We have approached United Utilities for a robust conversation with regard to the management of the site and get their thoughts on possibly a temporary closure if we can’t alleviate these issues immediately.

“It is their site: it is only they who can authorise that. So, I am seeking meetings with senior management as soon as we can.

“It has been commented to me now we know what people in Cornwall and the Lake District feel like. Maybe that is true.

“But people who go to Cornwall and the Lake District are contributing to the local economy.

“When they go to Dovestone they are not: they are creating a huge issue and leaving an awful lot of waste of various types.”

UU declined an Independent request to interview a senior site manager. A spokesperson added: “Dovestone is one of the few open spaces for people in Oldham to exercise and enjoy fresh air during the lockdown period.

“We sympathise with the local residents. But it’s important to remember that Dovestone is open countryside with public rights of way and land that has to remain open under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act.

“There are multiple access points, so closing the site is not as simple as it sounds and it could lead to additional problems with cars parking irresponsibly in other areas.

“This then affects the council and police, whose resources are already stretched.

“We continue to work closely with local partners to find solutions, for example, together we’ve funded additional marshals who are currently on duty every day.

“The Peak District National Park is also trialling a car park ‘traffic light’ system so that visitors can see which car parks are full before they set off.”

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