Coronavirus: Rural Hampshire car parks close after influx

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image captionCar parks at Hampshire's council-run country parks have been closed

Car parks in Hampshire beauty spots have been closed following an influx of visitors during the coronavirus crisis.

On Friday Hampshire County Council made parking free in its seven country parks, but it has since reversed the decision.

Deputy council leader Sean Woodward said its sites were "very busy" at the weekend as people had ignored official advice and escaped to the countryside.

Forestry England has also said it is shutting car parks in the New Forest.

Hampshire County Council announced on Friday that it was allowing free parking in country parks, with catering takeaway kiosks also staying open.

'Terribly difficult'

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Woodward said "hordes of people" had travelled to Lee-on-Solent, while Lepe Beach was also reported as being very busy.

"It's terribly difficult to stop people doing it. Getting fresh air is important, but equally they need to keep a safe distance from others in order to minimise the spread of the virus," he said.

On Monday, the authority announced it was closing its car parks and there would be no facilities open, including toilets and play areas.

It said the sites would remain open for local walkers and urged people to follow the latest guidelines on social distancing.

image captionCar parks in the New Forest were busy on Saturday

Forestry England said it would all close all recreation facilities in its woodlands, including the main car parks in the New Forest National Park.

It said smaller car parks in the forest would remain open, but the situation would remain under review.

The Commoners Defence Association chairman Tony Hockey said visiting the forest was "simply an unnecessary risk" for people.

"It was very worrying to see so many people travelling around a rural area with quite an old population.

"It's clear the message has not been understood - people should enjoy green spaces close to home."

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