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Overnight camping on Barton clifftop is 'damaging the local envrionment'

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MOTORHOME owners parking up on Barton clifftop have been accused of anti-social behaviour by a local resident who says they are running engines into the night.

Ian Payne said the issue of overnight camping in Marine Drive East began last year when New Forest campsites shut amid the pandemic.

He had hoped that the sites’ reopening would solve the problem, but with every sunny weekend comes a string of motor homes outside his property.

There are no parking restrictions along Marine Drive East at Barton
There are no parking restrictions along Marine Drive East at Barton

“They come on a Friday evening and sometimes stay the whole weekend,” he said. “They run their clattery diesel engines for two to three hours a night to charge their batteries, polluting the neighbourhood, and these people also impact residents’ privacy because the vans overlook our properties.

“Of course the facilities in Barton are not adequate for people camping in the area – they will say they are self-sufficient but I often see liquid leaking out from under the vehicles and wonder what exactly it is.

“I think it is anti-social and very inconsiderate. Why should they get to enjoy the area, at no cost and at the expense of those who live here, when there are perfectly good campsites in the area geared up for it?”

Mr Payne said he has lodged several complaints over the past few months with New Forest District Council and Hampshire County Council but neither has taken action.

“In the clifftop car parks, NFDC has put up signs prohibiting overnight camping – why can’t they do the same along the road?” said Mr Payne. “Or, they could stop people parking between 11pm and 6am.

“The problem is that once one arrives, it’s like a chain reaction with others sure to follow because they highlight to each other that this is a good place, with its sea views, to stop. It’s great that people are coming to the area, but these van owners have a blatant disregard for the effect they are having on the people living here.”

In reply to Mr Payne, county councillors said the authority had limited enforcement powers because there are no parking restrictions along that road.

Cllr Russell Oppenheimer, HCC cabinet member for highways, said that with “limited resources and funding”, the council must “prioritise its involvement carefully”.

He continued: “What we will not do is make a decision based upon visitor behaviour linked to the pandemic, as this may well ease once restrictions are lifted.

“If there is a new normal then we will have to assess all locations in terms of our approach to new or amended parking restrictions.“Please be assured we are listening, but we will not be making any further decisions until later in the summer or early autumn.”

HCC deputy leader Cllr Rob Humby said overnight camping was an issue at a number of seafront locations across the country.

“Given these circumstances we have already opened dialogue with New Forest District Council, who have informed us that the overnight camping or sleeping restrictions are being enforced by staff working early in the morning and late at night,” he said.

“The location is a popular one and if we considered adding parking restrictions we would need to be mindful that they didn’t just displace the problem to other areas nearby,” he said.

“Given this, coupled with the temporary nature of the issues, it would be difficult to justify the cost and legal work involved in introducing on-street parking controls at the current time.”

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