A FRENSHAM councillor has hit out at a London newspaper after an article appeared online this week encouraging its readers to travel “just one hour and 15 minutes by car” to visit the “jaw-dropping” Frensham Great Pond.
Frensham Common has become a magnet for sun-seekers in recent years, causing mayhem on the area’s roads, leaving litter strewn across the precious heathland habitat and, last summer, breaking strict social-distancing rules.
This has been fuelled, in part, by repeated articles in the London-based press driving up visitor numbers to Frensham’s land-locked beach – the latest of which appeared online just this week.
Siva Thangarajah, writing for www.mylondon.news on February 7, appealed to those looking for somewhere “a bit less bustling” to make the short car journey to visit Frensham Pond, which she said “feels like a seaside beach town... in the middle of the countryside”.
The article even used photographs taken by MyLondon’s sister paper the Surrey Advertiser/SurreyLive, which itself reported Waverley Borough Council’s desperate pleas for visitors to stay away from Frensham just last summer.
The author did add visitors should delay their visits until “the weather is warmer and brighter, and we are able to safely travel outside our areas again”.
But former Waverley Borough Council leader, and councillor for Frensham, Churt and Dockenfield, Julia Potts has hit out at the timing of the article, posted in the midst of a global pandemic.
She said: “As ward councillor I find it incredibly disappointing and wholly irresponsible that such an article is being shared, at a time of national lockdown, when the restrictions are clear in stating any exercise or visits should be local. Frensham is not local to London.
“It is my understanding the newspaper in question did not check on the situation with Waverley.
“Many local residents will be only too aware of the difficulties faced in and around Frensham last summer as a result of lockdowns and the huge surge in visitor numbers, which led to serious health-and-safety issues.
“There were several thousand visitors to the area daily, many ignoring social distancing, lighting barbecues and fires on a tinder-dry common, anti-social behaviour and some 80 to 90 bags of rubbish being cleared up by the local authority and volunteers on a daily basis.
“The risks to lives, nearby homes, the damage to a beautiful site of outstanding natural beauty and the significant financial costs to the local authority cannot be underestimated.
“A Joint Action Group (JAG) involving, Surrey Police, Surrey, Waverley and Frensham councils, The National Trust, Guildford Borough Council parking enforcement, and St Mary’s School was set up.
“Working together, a number of short and longer-term measures were put in place to mitigate a number of these serious issues.
“We all recognise, however, that many beauty spots both in Waverley and across the country are coming under, and likely to come under even further, pressures as restrictions ease and people also have staycations.
“While all parties have worked together to put in place many improvements for this season, these can only go so far and at our most recent JAG meeting on Tuesday, we discussed these and agreed how all stakeholders would continue to work together to ensure they are prepared and plan in advance for this coming season.
“As ward councillor I would like to personally thank everyone involved who has really helped achieve so much for Frensham and the surrounding area.
“While we cannot stop visitors, I would stress to anyone wishing to visit to please act responsibly and adhere to all the guidelines in place when visiting, park safely and responsibly, remembering parking is very limited, check the Waverley website and social media for regular updates, take your rubbish home with you, and please do not light fires or barbecues.”
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