POLICE are being urged to step up patrols to deal with "grossly unacceptable" conduct at a Hampshire beauty spot.

Julian Lewis, MP for New Forest East, says tougher action is needed to tackle the "loutish and dangerous" behaviour seen at Hatchet Pond, near Beaulieu, over the summer.

In a letter to the New Forest National Park Authority (NPA) Dr Lewis says steps must be taken to prevent rule-breaking "becoming the norm".

It follows reports that families flocking to the environmentally-sensitive pond have been flouting the ban on swimming and barbecues as well as going paddle-boarding.

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Dr Lewis has written to the NPA's chief executive, Alison Barnes.

His letter says: "I fully appreciate that we are living in exceptional times and that the National Park Authority and Forestry England can reasonably claim that they could not have been predicted.

"Yet I am sure you would agree that some system must be found soon (to) rigorously enforce the rules, regulations and bylaws which are supposed to apply in the Forest."

Dr Lewis calls for an enhanced police presence at Hatchet Pond "to support the NPA during this crisis period".

He adds: "No-one is suggesting any form of blanket police presence. All that is required is a small unit making targeted interventions to prevent rule-breaking and bad behaviour from becoming the norm.

"Word will quickly spread as soon as it becomes known that an example has been made with loutish, dangerous and anti-social behaviour.

"I do hope you will engage seriously with the police and come up with this scheme to ensure the statutory duties laid upon the NPA are firmly guaranteed and discharged."

A police spokesman said: "We are aware of reports of anti-social behaviour at Hatchet Pond in recent months.

"Our officers have continued to patrol the area as part of our routine patrols.

"We will retain a high-visibility in the area as part of our patrols in order to deter any anti-social behaviour and to identify any offenders.

"We will be working with Forestry England and engaging with the rangers at Hatchet Pond to reduce the impact of any further anti-social behaviour in the area."

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NPA executive director Steve Avery added: "As lockdown has eased the New Forest, like many other outdoor spaces, has experienced unprecedented pressure and a considerable rise in anti-social behaviour.

"We and Forestry England continue to have joint ranger patrols over the summer and to actively patrol Hatchet Pond, particularly during warm weather.

"We welcome Dr Lewis’s offer to help secure additional police support and are in active discussions with the police about opportunities for joint patrols in some of the hotspots for the remaining school holiday period."