MEMBERS of the public have been “ignoring” public notices and “breaking down” temporary fencing to use the play park on the recreation ground in Fordingbridge, which has been closed off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the weekend, there were reports of large groups of people in Fordingbridge Park.

A spokesperson for Fordingbridge Town Council, who is responsible for the play park and recreation ground, said: “There has been a lot of comment about use of the park and the town council wants to reach as many members of the public who have been using or wish to use the play park. This will hopefully reduce the numbers of people visiting the facility thereby ensuring adherence to the government directive around the use of play parks and the equipment it houses.

“It is unfortunate that some members of the public are disregarding our advice and ignoring public information notices, climbing fences and breaking down our temporary fences. We wish to reiterate to the public that it is forbidden to enter the play park and skate park area and that these sections of the park remain closed until the existing measures are reviewed by government."

Salisbury Journal:

“Whilst we understand that the public wish to enjoy open spaces, they are able to do this within the section of the park that remains open (which are clearly identified) and is safe to use as the risk of social contact is minimised and social distancing is able to be maintained. These measures are in place to protect the public and to reduce the risk of cross infection and spread of Covid-19.”

The council said it was reviewing its temporary fencing arrangements and asked the public to comply with restrictions, adding: “The police are aware of the issues at the park but have limited powers to remove people form the site.”

Caroline Roylance, who runs The George pub, says since May 11 “big groups” have been seen in the area around the park and there has been an increase in antisocial behaviour.

She said: “Even though the kids park is closed off due to the government guidelines we’ve had big groups in there.”

“We’ve had people jumping off the bridge and throwing their kids off the bridge, which is a listed monument.”

Large groups have been seen picnicking and barbecuing.

She says Saturday was “quite busy” but on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday there was a group of between 26 and 30 people, including a large number of children, who she believes were visitors to the area.

“They were screaming, swearing, throwing things at the houses, catching the ducklings in nets and with their bare hands. They just didn’t care. The parents were just leaving them to it.”

One of the cygnets thas not been seen since.

Caroline said: “The park’s not small, but it’s not big, they weren’t social distancing.”

On Sunday, she says there were around 150 people in the play park area with around 100 on the Monday. People have been seen climbing over the gate to the park. This picture was taken at 3pm on Sunday.

Salisbury Journal:

“I understand that the police are really stretched. If the government would say only ten miles from your house but it is a free for all,” added Caroline.

“We are still doing our bit, queuing up outside the butcher with masks on, and then there are groups of 26 people walking around. It is really frustrating. We want to open, we want other businesses to open, and we want to get back to some sort of normality. People keep flocking here and not caring.”

She said: “It is the minority not the majority. Most people are staying at home, just going for a walk or sitting in the park. It is these big groups that are coming for the day or the weekend that just don’t care about the rules.”

Police were called on Monday evening to the recreation ground. A Hampshire Constabulary spokesperson said: “We can confirm that our officers were called to reports of a large group of people acting antisocially yesterday (Monday) evening at Fordingbridge Recreational Ground.

“The large group had dispersed before our officers arrived on scene. They spoke to members of the public in the vicinity who had confirmed they hadn’t seen anyone in the play area for a short while.

“We’re unable to confirm if any ducklings or cygnets were killed as our officers found no evidence of this, despite searching the surrounding area.”