MILFORD parish councillors has called for action after a barrage of daily complaints about wild campers living in vans at two roadside spots in Keyhaven.
The vans, which have been parked in Saltgrass Lane and New Lane for “weeks a time”, have prompted complaints about littering, access for emergency services, and human waste disposal.
The situation has been part-blamed on the controversial closure of New Forest campsites for the rest of the year by operator Camping in the Forest.
Speaking at a meeting of Milford Parish Council, clerk Graham Wells said on a recent visit to the site he counted 42 vans, adding: “It has been a real headache for us.”
He went on: “We are dealing with probably around three complaints each day regarding the parking at Keyhaven, probably exacerbated by the closure of campsites around the area.
“We are encouraging everyone to write to the district council from an environmental point of view because there seems be a number of complaints with regard to the disposal of waste, so we are pointing everyone to the NFDC environment department.”
Turning to Milford’s Hampshire county councillor, Cllr Fran Carpenter, Mr Wells said: “The frustration for us is that we can do very little about it.
“So I’m wondering if the county council can help us at all with the issue because there is currently no parking restriction whatsoever down there at the moment.”
Cllr Carpenter said that NFDC would be stepping up its efforts to prevent overnight parking at the district council car park with additional evening visits.
She continued: “If people are parking on the road there are very few places marked ‘no parking’ so they are allowed to be there unless they actually block the roads.
“If they block a road so people can’t get past then you can call the police, but if that is not the case there is very little that you can do.
“If we can bear to wait it out until the end of summer and it dies down, it might not come back next year.”
However, Mr Wells said it was an annual problem which had escalated year on year, and without help from the county council – which is the highways authority – he feared the situation would continue to deteriorate.
Cllr Bob Bishop declared: “Essentially it’s wild camping. It’s all very well if you are in a great big beach in southern France because the French are set up for it. But when you get people living in mobile homes on parking spaces and they are there month after month it is very difficult.”
Cllr Matt Goode asked if a height restriction could be put in place at Keyhaven. He said: “It is not overnight parking – I’m expecting an allotment to appear in the middle of the highway at some point, they have been there that long.
“It is not just a couple of motorhomes that are pitching up whilst they are touring. This is people living down there long term. Residents have reported seeing blue waste being tipped down the open drains. It is not acceptable.”
Cllr Goode said he feared the council needed to be “a bit draconian” to tackle the problem. “You won’t get people to stop with a couple of signs. I have never seen anything like Keyhaven this year.”
Highlighting facilities like Lynton Lawn touring park and Muddy Puddle campsite next to the South lawns Hotel, Cllr Sue Whitlock pointed out that visitors were a welcome boost to the village economy.
“I am a big supporter of camping and I would hate to discourage people from doing it,” she said, but added the situation at Keyhaven was “tricky”.
Cllr Anne Cullen urged councillors to be sympathetic to those unable to uses sites which were now closed because of the pandemic. She said: “There could be mental health problems.
“Before we start getting too draconian, I think we should consider the reasons why some of these people may be there in the first place.”