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Fighting to make Bawsey Pits safe for people to enjoy again

PUBLISHED: 20:48 03 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:41 04 July 2014

Bawsey Pits, where a man and a 16-year-old boy drowned last summer. Picture: Ian Burt

Bawsey Pits, where a man and a 16-year-old boy drowned last summer. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2014

People want a country park which is safe for them to enjoy at Bawsey, a public meeting heard tonight.

Almost 600 responded to a public consultation questionnaire about the future of the tragic beauty spot near King’s Lynn, where a man and a 16-year-old boy died last summer.

Tonight’s meeting, at the nearby Sandboy pub, was told the Bawsey Lakes Futures Group had been formed, to agree how the site could be improved.

Gary Stringer, director of resources for minerals firm Sibelco, which owns the pits, said: “We can’t have people dying whether it’s our land or community land. We’ve got to have a solution.”

Around 80pc of those responding to the survey lived in the King’s Lynn area, the meeting heard. Of those, 80pc wanted to walk their dogs or enjoy outdoor activities, 74pc favoured watersports such as fishing or canoeing, while 80pc would be prepared to pay to park at the pits if the money was invested in their upkeep.

People attending the meeting were invited to join five sub groups, which will each draw up proposals for how parts of the site could be devoted to conservation, watersports, shore-based leisure activities, commercial uses and education.

Nigel Canham, a member of the futures group, said they would have to “accord with the broad thrust of the survey results”.

He added: “The public have spoken very clearly about the sort of mix that might work.”

Dozens ignored the No Swimming signs and took to the waters last summer before Umar Balogun, 16, from London, went missing, on July 16. Ryan Pettengell, 41, from King’s Lynn, got into difficulties after he swam out to look for the missing teenager.

The bodies of both men were recovered by divers after a major search involving police and firefighters.

Andy Parker, chair of the futures group, said: “We formed following the tragic deaths of Ryan and Omar, we’re determined no similar events will ever occur.”

Days after the double tragedy, there were swimmers in the lakes again. Sibelco locked the car park, but was required to allow access to the site by planning laws.

Mr Stringer said the gate would remain locked until a way forward had been agreed for the lakes, adding the closure was “non negotiable”. He said the amount of litter left around the site had fallen since vehicles had been prevented from accessing it.

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