North Somerset Council has closed Abbots Pool nature reserve in Abbots Leigh today following increased concerns for public health and issues with environmental damage and anti-social behaviour.
Since the lockdown restrictions have been relaxed, more and more people have visited the site and the issues have worsened considerably during the hot weather.
Visitors have been ignoring social distancing, and using the site as a toilet which both pose a significant threat to public health.
Other problems caused at the site include large amounts of litter, damage to the woodland and verges on the track leading to the site and to the eco-system of the pool itself which has been used for swimming, even though no swimming is allowed on site.
Cllr Don Davies, Leader of the Council, local ward member and member of the Abbots Pool management committee since 2015 said: “We must do everything we can to encourage our residents to respect social distancing and lockdown measures and maintain the health of our population.
“Despite efforts to encourage a code of conduct at the site, irresponsible and anti-social behaviour has continued, and even worsened during the warm weather.
“Enjoyment of our outdoor spaces is something that we actively encourage, and closing a site will only ever be considered as a last resort. Given that other efforts to promote responsible behaviour have failed we are left with no choice.
“Using the site as a toilet is not OK. Leaving rubbish behind is not OK. Causing damage to the site through parking and swimming is not OK. Blocking emergency access is not OK.
“With so much evidence of alcohol consumption at the site, and people swimming, there is also risk of a serious incident at the pool. The safest option to protect public health and the environment is for us to close the site. We have made the decision to do that today and will be erecting barriers to prevent access.
“My strong message to anyone wanting to visit the site is don’t. And wherever you choose to go to enjoy time outside, please use that space responsibly. Keep your social distancing efforts going, park responsibly, take a bag with you and use it to collect your rubbish, and take that rubbish home with you. Leave only footprints.”
Simon Talbot-Ponsonby, Chair of Abbots Leigh Parish Council and also long-standing member of the Abbots Pool management committee added: “The local community are very sad that it has come to this, but totally agree that there is no alternative to this course of action.
“So many people have ignored all of the signs and shown no respect for the nature reserve that drastic measures are the only solution. The public health implications of the way this area has been abused are frightening, and if they were allowed to continue it would not be long before some people became seriously ill or even worse.
“Locally we are disappointed that this has had to happen and regret the loss of the local amenity, but we support this action for the time-being. We look forward to when the pool area can reopen and people can come back and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.”
The closure is likely to remain in place throughout the summer and will be kept under review until the end of September 2020.