PICKMERE faced an 'unprecedented onslaught' of visitors as people flocked to Pickmere Lake during a recent heatwave as lockdown restrictions eased, said the parish council.

The council's comments came today at it responded to criticism by Pickmere resident Jayne Henderson over its handling of the traffic chaos which resulted from the large number of people visiting the lake.

Jayne said the accessibility of the lake created a huge number of problems for residents as families arrived with young children and dogs.

She said: “Teenagers and the public who were furloughed also came in search of sunshine, open spaces and fresh air. Sadly this brought problems, with many leaving rubbish and some drinking and drug taking.

“My husband and I, along with a number of residents, worked each evening in an attempt to restore the beauty of the area and protect the wildlife from the rubbish left.”

She said police did ‘a remarkable job’ in policing the safe distancing rules, and encouraging safe drinking and sending people home not adhering to the rules.

She added that Cheshire East Council was equally responsive to the residents’ plight, and with the help of ward councillor Kate Parkinson delivered 100 traffic cones to help ease traffic and parking problems, as well as organising extra bin collections.

She said: “Very sadly Pickmere Parish Council has kept the gates locked, depriving the area of a further seven to 10 hardstanding parking spaces, which has exacerbated the problems.

“To make matters worse, a number of Pickmere residents have taken to parking off their drives and on the roads outside their properties, which has made the situation even more impractical.

“The village is now returning to some sort of normality, and I believe only a handful of cars were issued with tickets during this time.

“This would not have been the case if the gates were unlocked by Pickmere Parish Council, allowing those to park as they should.

“However to prevent these sort of problems happening ever again, we as residents of Pickmere need assurances everyone will work together in an empathetic way.

“To work with the residents primarily and understand our needs, to work with the police if need be, and Cheshire East Council, who are sensitive to the smooth running of the village.

“I hope Pickmere Parish Council is aware of the problems that have been caused through lack of real communication with all the relevant bodies involved."

A parish council spokeman said: "Generally speaking, most parish problems revolve around single issues.

"This hasn’t been the case for Pickmere: we experienced an immediate, unprecedented onslaught of visitors due to an extraordinary combination of coronavirus, heatwave and the first lifting of lockdown.

"Parking, road obstruction, public order, social distancing, litter, Knutsford Vikings promoting alternatives to indoor pool swimming, underage drinking, substance misuse and toxic algae became simultaneous, connected issues…you name it, these have dominated our thoughts and actions ever since.

"Added to this are the logistics: Pickmere Lake straddles two borough councils, five parish councils and various landowners and police divisions.

"So we recognised two truths: without the legal powers or resources to resolve everything on our own, we would need to work as a team with the police, Cheshire East Council and the community.

"And it would be impossible to satisfy everyone. It has not been our experience that Cheshire East Council have been responsive to residents’ plight.

"Their traffic wardens were not much in attendance when the problems were at their height.

"The parking tickets and advisory notices mentioned by the resident were largely issued by the police.

"The meagre 100 traffic cones that were secured from Cheshire East Council did indeed come via Cllr Kate Parkinson, but only through direct parish council pressure.

"Pickmere Parish Council has lodged a formal complaint against Cheshire East Council based on its failure to engage, and it is only since we publicised our formal complaint against Cheshire East in the Knutsford Guardian that the discussions so long requested are now, finally, ongoing.

"The exception has been Cheshire East’s refuse collectors who, through their own initiative and not via any Cheshire East directive, really stepped up.

"Thanks to them and all the volunteer litter collectors, including councillors and the resident and her husband, the area has been kept as litter-free as possible.

"The presence of Cheshire Police in significant numbers was needed on many occasions.

"‘Policing safe distancing’, ‘encouraging safe drinking’ and ‘sending people home’ are probably not the terms we would use to describe the various ASB and crowd dispersal powers that were actioned, but we are confident that through our efforts the police appreciate the propensity for further problems during future hot spells and have plans in place.

"As to the decision to keep parish council gates locked in the meantime and block off a small number of parking spaces, this was based on a balance between a very small amelioration towards the hundreds of people parking, or village wellbeing.

"We chose the latter. Keeping the gates closed, on police advice, and forfeiting a small number of parking space to prevent them from being used by people involved with undesirable activities was, we felt, in the best interests of the village.

"Our next parish council, via Zoom, is on Tuesday, July 14 and we encourage as many residents as possible to observe the meeting so that they can see the council discuss the issues that have been raised."