The Alliance, joined by MPs and local councillors, is pleading with the public to respect the countryside and green spaces ahead of the weekend, after multiple reports from across the country over last weekend revealed beauty spots had been blighted by litter.
It is now urging local authorities and those responsible for the management of parks to urgently assess the feasibility of opening up restroom facilities in a safe way, after reports emerged of people defecating at a number of popular public spaces.
The beautiful weather over the weekend prompted thousands to visit the countryside in a bid to enjoy the open spaces, but sadly it has resulted in a surge of litter being left behind causing concern for wildlife welfare.
Sarah Lee, Head of Policy at the Countryside Alliance said: “ Getting out into the countryside & to green spaces is to be expected when the weather is as beautiful as it is and given how many of us have been observing lockdown restrictions. However, it appears some have forgotten that leaving rubbish behind to be presumably picked up by others is somehow OK. There is never an excuse for it and those doing it should be ashamed. We can’t ignore the wildlife, who suffer as a result of this selfishness. While visiting beauty spots is helpful, if rural areas are to thrive economically going forward, it cannot be the case that they are left with clearing up the mess like this. Please do not abuse our green and pleasant land and ensure you dispose of all litter.”
After a series of angry reports on social media and to the group, the Countryside Alliance are calling on local authorities and park managers to consider taking urgent steps to open up public lavatories in way where people can observe social distancing, much like those currently used at motorway service stations.
Toilet facilities across the country were closed down when strict lockdown rules were introduced in March.
Although lockdown restrictions have now been eased, allowing people to meet, the reopening of facilities has not kept pace with the surge rush of people heading out to enjoy the great outdoors due to safety concerns.
Miss Lee added: “ An inevitable consequence of permitting groups of people to visit open spaces, where they are likely to sit for some time consuming beverages, will lead to people needing to use the toilet, which in most cases is not available to them currently. We can’t have a situation where people are relieving themselves in public places. It’s both unhygienic and disgusting for everyone visiting the local area. People also need to take personal responsibility for their own hygiene & have respect for other people.”
In Enfield, one councillor has expressed outrage at the state of a much loved local park. Pictures from Trent Park, which dates back to the fourteenth century when it was a part of Henry IV's hunting grounds, have emerged showing empty beer bottles and hundreds of discarded laughing gas cannisters & helium balloons strewn over the green space. There have even been reports of human excrement being thrown into the bushes, prompting serious concerns over hygiene.
Councillor Alessandro Georgiou said: “ It’s absolutely clear that public parks and spaces need to be open; offering a place for people to meet and to embrace nature freely during these difficult times. Trent Park is the jewel in the crown of Enfield & for most of the lockdown it has been used responsibly by the public for exercise. However we have seen the disgraceful behaviour of a few ruin it for the many. Littering has now become rife, with people disposing large amounts of rubbish in the middle of, and throughout the green areas. This also includes human waste which is truly disgusting. The Friends of Trent Park have done an amazing job cleaning up the park, but this littering really needs to stop.”
Speaking to the Countryside Alliance, Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said: “Public parks and open spaces are a great way for people to exercise and beat loneliness by having contact with the outside world. Sadly, it’s clear from images over the weekend that a minority have no respect for others and nature. People need to be aware of how damaging leaving litter can be to the natural world.
On the matter of establishing a plan to re-open public restrooms, the Romford MP added: “While parks and public spaces are open, it appears only sensible to now consider planning for the opening of public facilities, where it is safe to do so.”
Over the weekend, piles of rubbish were left at Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham and it was reported by a user on Twitter that the Fire Service were involved in the clean-up.
Meanwhile, shocking photos taken at the weekend show litter left behind at riverside beauty spots in Ilkley and Bingley in Yorkshire. This included beer cans and unwanted picnic items dumped across the much cherished locations.