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Leader statement: please play your part - take litter home

Councillor Caroline Reeves, Leader of the Council says: "Thank you to our residents who have carefully followed the government guidance, playing their part since March and stayed home to protect our NHS staff in order to save lives. Thanks to you all, we are now moving into the next phase of lockdown where we are able to spend as much time as we like outdoors, shops are beginning to open and we can meet up to six others from outside our household, while keeping two metres apart. Shielded and more vulnerable people can also now go outside.

"You will have seen on social media how deeply saddened many residents have been at the lack of respect shown by some visiting our outdoor sites. There has been an appalling volume of discarded litter, alongside disposable BBQs, food packaging and beer bottles. We have actually collected twice as much litter in past week, compared to an average week in the school summer holidays. As we all make the most of the rules being relaxed, I'm urging you to please play your part to look after our outdoor spaces.

"We are working as hard as we can to keep our parks and countryside clean and safe for you all to enjoy while protecting our wonderful and diverse wildlife. We are privileged to have such a beautiful borough, but we need you to play your part and help keep it that way. Please follow the Countryside Code and take your rubbish home.

Litter
"We understand it has felt like a long few months spent at home, juggling personal and work lives within the restrictions. We know that with restrictions lifting, the chance to meet with friends and family is exciting and, coupled with the fantastic weather, it is brilliant we can make the very most of being outdoors. Looking after our physical and mental health is very important.


"But in order to ensure our green spaces are clean and safe for everyone to enjoy, we need you to play your part and help. Please set an example and respect our sites and the local communities that surround them. Please don't use any form of BBQ in our green spaces, they can very quickly cause very dangerous fires. If you see the bins are full, please take your litter home. Rest assured we are working hard to keep them emptied seven days a week but with around three to four times the normal number of visitors, this is further demand in addition to maintaining our normal and extra support services we have had to provide in the response to Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak. The additional demand also places a further risk to our frontline workers.

"All of our public toilets are open (except Stoke Park gardens, which is closed as an area). Please use them if you need to and leave them clean and tidy.

"We sincerely hope that recent behaviours shown in our parks and countryside were just an initial effect of our eagerness to make the most of our regained freedom. We know how much you care about our borough. We continue to work with our partners Surrey Hills - Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Wildlife Trust and other services, such as Surrey Police, to ensure the borough is safe, welcoming and maintained to a high standard. Please play your part, too, and look after the places where you live and visit."

Sarah Jane Chimbwandira, Chief Executive of the Surrey Wildlife Trust, says: "We have real concerns about the exponential increase in anti-social behaviour, littering and disregard for the countryside. In some areas, it is the worst we have ever seen. The government lockdown saw a recovery for our environment and wildlife, which some people have neglected by thoughtlessly littering. It is particularly concerning when we are recognising the benefits of nature to our wellbeing, which is not possible when sites are full of litter. The rise in anti-social behaviour is really sad to see as our countryside is for groups of people to enjoy, not to make others feel intimidated."

Rob Fairbanks, Director of Surrey Hills AONB, says: "Following the easing of lockdown, there has been an unprecedented number of visitors to the Surrey Hills area.  At a time when many of the car park facilities and our local businesses are closed, there have been major problems dealing with litter, congestion, gates left open and BBQs, which are very high risk in such a dry period. We ask all our visitors to please respect our countryside, its farmers and our local communities."

Published on Wednesday 3 June.