Bawsey Pits

New warning – man nearly drowns at Bawsey Pits

7th August 2014. The owners of Bawsey Pits have issued another stark warning not to swim at the site, after a man got into difficulty in the water.

Norfolk fire and rescue service were called at around 3.30pm Wednesday 6th August 2014 to rescue a man who was feared to be drowning.

The man, who at the site was with two other males, managed to get out of the water just before the fire crew arrived.

Nigel Canham, a spokesman for minerals firm Sibeco, who own the site said: “Once again, the message could not be any clearer – do not enter the water. It is an old quarry with sand and the depths change throughout with areas of very cold water.

“Even when it is tempting to go in when the weather is hot, it is a gamble. We would urge the public to report to us or to the emergency services if they see anything unsafe of antisocial.”

Mr Canham also revealed that last week the police were called to deal with an overnight party at the pits.

However, he said that the safety advisers that Sibelco have employed to keep a continuous watch over the area, have “gone down well.”

The advisors were brought in to help through the busy summer holiday period in light of two previous deaths at the lakes.

Last July, Ryan Pettengell, 41, and Umar Balogun, 16, drowned.

And despite of no swimming warning signs, there still have been reports of people jumping into the water.

But the safety advisors can only advise as they have no authority on what people do.

“I must stress that the safety advisors are at the site to give advice around the clock, 24 hours a day,” Mr Canham said.

Sibelco earlier told a public meeting earlier last month that they hope to transform the pits into a country park which is safe for families to enjoy.

Bawsey Pits quarry staff “demoralised”

25th July 2014. Sibelco workers have been warning visitors to the country park of the dangers of swimming in the lakes but have been told “we don’t care”.

Ryan Pettengell, 41, of Lynn, and 16-year-old Umar Balogun both drowned in separate accidents at Bawsey on July 16 last year.

The site has come in for vandalism with safety signs being defaced along with other anti-social behaviour.

Now the firm is again asking people to stay out of the water.

A company spokesman said: “Staff are really quite demoralised and don’t know what to do next. It is a really worrying situation and we can’t seem to persuade people to stay out of the water. Some people have said they don’t care if someone drowned there – how can you counter that?”

Resources director Gary Stringer is calling for people to stay out of the water and respect the site.

In a letter he said: “It is with considerable alarm that we learn of people continuing to enter the water at Bawsey.

“It is also disheartening that safety signs have again been attacked by vandals and that the site is being used as an open toilet.”

He said the firm will ensure that the damage is repaired and that the site will be monitored as operation commitments allow but his team cannot “police” the park. Work has started on finding a long term solution for the site.

People want a country park which is safe

Thursday 3rd July 2014. 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 80% of those responding to the survey lived in the King’s Lynn area, the meeting heard. Of those, 80% wanted to walk their dogs or enjoy outdoor activities, 74% favoured watersports such as fishing or canoeing, while 80% 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 the Futures Group 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.

West Norfolk Water Sports plan for Bawsey Pits

A businessman is hoping he has the answer for the future of Bawsey Pits – by setting up a water activity centre.

West Norfolk Water Sports director Bob White wants to see people canoeing and sailing on the lakes before enjoying the 170 acre country park and staying in log cabins.

Site owners Sibelco are currently running a public consultation on what the future of the pits should involve following last year’s double tragedy.

Ryan Pettengell, 41, of Railway Road, Lynn, and 16-year-old Umar Balogun died at the site in July last year.

Swimming is banned and the car park is closed since the incident but the park has remained open.

But Mr White is hoping to prevent future tragedies by providing safe bathing areas.

He said: “People would be swimming in an area deemed to be safe. We would survey the bottom and have it so everyone is in a relatively controlled area with life guards there to offer assistance if needed.

“It would still be free swimming but more controlled.

“We are in the process of the public consultation and if enough people want water sports, we would be looking to develop the site.”

Mr White has held talks with Sibelco but his plans hinge on the outcome of the public consultation.

If the plans go ahead, Mr White would like to offer water sports such as kayaking, canoeing and sailing along with water skiing and paddle boarding.

Mr White’s long term plan would include installing log cabins for families and college or school parties for adventure holidays.

He said: “I still want to keep it open to the public for people to be able to come to Bawsey and not necessarily pay anything to enjoy it.

“We would like to make money but offer the site for the general public to come and enjoy as it is a great asset for Lynn.”

Mr White also feels that a presence at the country park would help curb other problems.

He said: “Hopefully our presence there would stop anti-social behaviour and damage to the site.

“I spoke to the groundsman who looks after Bawsey and he side and he said the shortest time a sign was removed from the site was 12 hours.”

Sibelco says it has been approached by several people with ideas and would welcome more.

The company, which is required by planning law to keep the site open to the public, launched the consultation on March 28.

A spokesman said: “So far the firm is really happy with the level of responses from the questionnaire. To date, we have received almost 400 completed questionnaires.

“We would still welcome many more as we have said all along we really what the public to drive this programme of change forward.

“As we said originally, we have no fixed ideas about the future. We will very much listen to what other people have to say and as soon as we have chance to evaluate the responses after the closing date, we will come back to the public.”