SURREY Live has taken a bashing from its own Facebook followers, and Waverley Borough Council, this week after again posting an article online promoting Frensham Pond as a “hidden gem” and the “secret Surrey beach walk you’ll want to go on this spring”.
As a designated Special Protection Area, Frensham Great Pond and Common, including The National Trust’s Little Pond estate, is an extremely rare heathland habitat, protected under national and international habitats regulations.
But recent years have seen visitors descend on the ponds in their droves, especially during sunny spells, resulting in anti-social and illegal parking clogging up local roads, including the rural clearways designed to give access to the emergency services and even St Mary’s Green in Frensham village.
The common itself has also been left strewn with litter and – most worryingly given the threat of wildfires – disposable barbecues.
And yet publishing group Reach continues to publish articles on its Surrey and London news websites both encouraging visitors to flock to Frensham’s “secret” beach – and then also reporting on the “total bedlam” and “mounds of rubbish” they leave behind.
Surrey Live’s most recent article ‘Frensham Little Pond has a secret Surrey beach walk you’ll want to go on this spring’, published by Laura Nightingale on March 19, was quickly admonished online by those who know Frensham’s ponds are now anything but “hidden gems”.
Georgi Welch responded on Facebook: “Yeh yeh and the people will drive from miles away, abandon their cars, block people’s access including emergency services and leave all their litter for National Trust staff to pick up and dispose of... stop advertising this as a place to go!”
Chloe Pert added: “Perhaps you can advertise the laws of parking on double yellows, blocking emergency access, double parking on corners preventing emergency vehicles or even residents getting to their home, littering and all the other stuff that happens when you keep pedalling this as the place to go!”
Dave Ben Parker said: “Keep it secret, don’t spoil something nice. There is enough going on in the world right now, it’s a nice getaway for local people, not hooligans from afar.”
Claire Williams said: “Your journalism is appalling and yet again you’re advertising a local beauty spot that is not designed for the masses and nor do we want them. If you know about it, great, but don’t encourage people to visit as it creates mayhem.”
Frensham and Dockenfield borough councillor Julia Potts also criticised the latest Surrey Live article.
She said: “It is really disappointing to see the Surrey Live article, given the serious issues experienced over the past three years especially with visitor numbers, ASB and all the work being done in conjunction with other local stakeholders, National Trust, police, parish councils, Waverley rangers and staff to try and resolve the issues.
“It is a shame that the publication concerned felt unable to engage with Waverley before publishing the article, so they could understand all the facts and take a more responsible journalistic approach to the content of their report.
“I hope that in future the newspaper concerned delivers a balanced article for its readers and takes time to understand the issues experienced by local residents, stakeholders and wider local community.”
Councillor Kika Mirylees, Waverley Borough Council’s portfolio holder for health, well-being, parks and leisure, added: “Each year, we see increasingly large numbers of visitors to Frensham Great Pond in the summer months and it is frustrating to see local press and, indeed publications outside the borough, continuing to actively promote the site when we have asked them not to.
“We will continue to patrol the area regularly and penalty notices will be issued to those motorists that park in contravention of the restrictions.
“Our advice remains, if the car park is full the site is full, please come back another day when you are able to appreciate the surroundings more.
“Don’t leave litter, and do not under any circumstances light fires or barbecues as they are prohibited for a very good reason and due to the high risk of starting a fire, they will be confiscated and fines will be issued.”
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