Debbie Abrahams MP’s update on Dovestone

Last summer I convened a meeting with the owners of the site, United Utilities (UU), the site’s leaseholder, the RSPB, other partners and concerned residents to discuss the antisocial and frankly dangerous behaviour of visitors to Dovestone. UU and the partners agreed to draft proposals for a new visitors’ strategy to address these issues and we reconvened to discuss these in November. At this meeting it was agreed to put these proposals out for wider community consultation in January 2021 which, as the legal owners of the site, UU will be co-ordinating.

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 that we are also 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 [sic] outside your local area’ for exercise. As Derbyshire Police are finding to their cost.

As such I will be writing to the Home Office, the Department of Health and Social Care, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, asking that as part of their regular review of their guidelines, they give the public, and the 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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