Shelagh Fogarty 1pm - 4pm
Organisers of Kent beach gathering admit it 'got out of hand' with no social distancing
10 August 2020, 14:45
Organisers of a beach gathering attended by hundreds have admitted it "got out of hand", but denied their event was "illegal".
The owners of Caribbean restaurant Flavour Boss, in Croydon, south London, had organised a beach cookout, and charged £27.54 for tickets to arrange transport to and from "secret beach location".
Flavour Boss director Orette Williams said the money charged was to cover the three coach-loads of people who attended the event and the company gave out food free of charge.
Sunday's event was initially planned for the cookout to take place at Camber Sands in East Sussex, but was moved to Romney Marsh, Kent, after police blocked the plans.
Sussex Police said the event had not been granted the relevant permissions and would not be supported.
But the event was instead held at Greatstone beach, and pictures were loaded onto social media of revellers ignoring social distancing rules.
Social distancing 🤷🏻♀️🤦🏻♀️ right oh, serious mistake letting this get this far, normally it would be fine but at the moment no not really. Totally overwhelmed and under prepared! pic.twitter.com/wTnFuHIiCX— Susan Pilcher (@susanpilcher1) August 10, 2020
At around 9pm that evening, police and ambulance crews were called to reports of a fight in a nearby car park. Four police officers were injured and a 29-year-old man from London was arrested at the scene.
One witness said officers in riot gear attended.
Under current government Covid-19 guidelines, it is against the law to hold a gathering of more than 30 people without permission from the local authority and police.
Mr Williams said that he was given permission for the event but it was withdrawn 48 hours beforehand after police found out that coach-loads of people would be attending.
"It did get a bit out of hand, with regards to the social distancing," he said.
He added that he had been given "mixed signals" by Folkstone and Hythe District Council, which he said gave permission for a gathering that followed social distancing rules.
"We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. What was I going to do? I was going to lose £2,000 on the coaches," he said.
"We don't host illegal gatherings, we did not break the law - the police knew this event was taking place. They were there from the start."
Superintendent Simon Thompson said: "Our officers responded to calls regarding a large group of people on Greatstone beach and remained in the area throughout the day to ensure those gathering were following guidelines.
"Our beaches, parks and town centres have been busier since the easing of lockdown restrictions and whilst the majority of visitors are following guidance to help control the spread of the virus we will continue to attend incidents where members of the public are not adhering to those safety measures.
"We work with the local authority, who has responsibility for the management of beaches, to ensure that coastal areas remain safe and pleasant places for both residents and visitors.
"We will not tolerate reports of anti-social behaviour."