Angry residents have criticised the National Trust after a postcode mix up caused hundreds of motorists to flood into their village during the coronavirus pandemic.
Villagers next to historic Belton House say visitors to a lights trail at the Grade I listed Georgian House drove up their driveways and were even knocking on doors to ask for directions to the entrance.
The traffic chaos was so bad that residents on one lane chose to barricade their street with wheelie bins to prevent further disruption caused by visitors to the country home, near Grantham.
Belton villager Bernard Norton claims the National Trust put the misleading postcode on tickets and its advertising to take visitors away from the Lion Gates on the other side of the estate.
And Mr Norton, who made a complaint to Lincolnshire Police and the local authorities, said this led to hundreds of cars driving into the village from cities further afield such as Lincoln, Nottingham, Peterborough and Leicester, and to his house.
He has demanded that the trust changes the postcode for future events.
The event ran until January 3 and even continued when Lincolnshire was put under tier 4 restrictions – despite some local opposition.
Mr Norton said: “Hundreds of cars have been coming into the village every night. It is not the visitors’ fault but we have had to barricade our entrance to stop people driving through the gate.”
Villager and parish council member Colin Thornton described the situation as “somewhat chaotic”.
He said: “Washdyke Lane is an unadopted single track lane that leads to a dead end and was initially inundated with vehicles trying to turn around in a very small area or on private drives in the dark and in poor weather conditions, risking damage to vehicles and property, to the extent that residents had to block the entrance to the lane with a wheelie bin with a sign stating ‘not Belton House’.”
A spokesperson from the National Trust at Belton House said: “The postcode for the entrance to Belton House and its car park also covers an area of Belton village, and unfortunately a small number of visitors miss the entrance as they drive past.
“Working closely with the local authorities we have taken steps to mitigate this, including installing additional bright lights around our entrance and signage to increase its visibility.
“We have been looking into the possibility of creating a unique satnav code purely for Belton’s entrance, which will eradicate this completely in future.”
The light show has attracted thousands of visitors every night and was able to remain open once Lincolnshire was placed into tier 4.
The trust added: “Before the current national lockdown, in line with government guidelines many of our places remained open across all tiers in England. In tiers 1 and 2, houses, shops and cafés could open.
“In tiers 3 and 4, outdoor spaces and toilets could open, and cafes were takeaway only. In tier four, shops were closed but outdoor light trails were permitted.
“The safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors and local communities is always our priority, and we continue to urge people to follow government guidance and restrictions. Belton remains open for the local community to use for exercise during the national lockdown.
“The booking system is still in place to help manage capacity and enable social distancing, and visitors are asked to look at the property website for information before planning a visit.”
Local county councillor Ray Wootten said: “South Kesteven has already seen an increase in reported infections, the highest in any district with 356.7 cases per 100,000 and sadly 10 additional deaths.
“With reports from the Belton and Manthorpe Parish Council and residents, claiming that social distancing was not taking place, then on safety grounds the event should have been closed.”
Tony McGinty, assistant director of public health, said: “With Lincolnshire moving to tier 4 previously, and now subject to the restrictions of the national lockdown, it’s so important that we stay at home as much as possible, and remember the ‘hands, face, space’ guidance.
“Throughout the pandemic, the county council, in partnership with district council colleagues and the police, has worked with businesses across the county to help them operate safely and in line with the latest guidance.
“The vaccine offers us light at the end of the tunnel, but we mustn’t get complacent. There is still real pressure on our hospitals and so we all must do our bit to reduce the pressure on the NHS.”