Beaches becoming 'unmanageable' after day of chaos at tourist hotspots

1 August 2020, 13:01

Councils are concerned beaches are becoming 'unmanageable' after a day of chaos
Councils are concerned beaches are becoming 'unmanageable' after a day of chaos. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Beaches are becoming "unmanageable" due to large swathes of visitors and has triggered fears around keeping people safe in the water, councils on the UK's coastline have warned.

Daytrippers flocked to beaches across the country on Friday, sparking concerns about how sunseekers would keep to social-distancing measures.

Thanet District Council had to ask people to avoid four of the area's beaches, including Margate's Main Sands, due to an unmanageable number of visitors.

Leader of the council, Cllr Rick Everitt, told the PA news agency: "Early on, it became clear that they were going to reach levels of which we were concerned about."

"The RNLI only have a certain capacity," he added, expressing concern about both keeping tourists safe and preventing the spread of Covid-19.

"They're on seven Thanet beaches this summer, which is slightly fewer than usual, and they're doing a great job where they are but they don't have unlimited resources to deal with people in the water.

"If you have too many people on the beach, it just becomes unmanageable from that point of view."

The Coastguard had its busiest day for more than four years on Friday - when the UK recorded its third hottest day ever - as it dealt with over 300 incidents.

The majority of callout on Friday were about people being cut off by the tide, missing children and swimmers getting into difficulty.

The service confirmed the total number of incidents was 329 - including 232 callouts for rescue teams, 129 for lifeboats and 22 situations requiring aircraft.

Mr Everitt added that Thanet's beaches had seen "exceptional" numbers of visitors driven by the weather.

"We're happy for people to come to Thanet, our economy is dependent on it, and obviously a lot of businesses in the coastal areas are struggling because they missed so much of the season.

"So it is a bit of a balancing act for us, because we don't want to be saying, 'don't come', as we know small businesses around our seafront are desperate for the revenue."

He said the facilities on the beaches, such as toilets, were not equipped for the number of tourists, while authorities would be able to cope better if demand was distributed more along the coastline.

"It's an irony isn't it that seaside towns have spent years complaining that people no longer visit them because they go abroad," he added.

"We're getting greater numbers than we've ever seen since package holidays became a thing."

At Cardiff Bay, police have had to issue a dispersal order, giving officers additional powers to deal with those acting in an antisocial manner has been put in place for the Oval Basin.

Two people – a 27-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man – were arrested on suspicion of assaulting an emergency worker after two officers were injured during separate incidents in the area, and police said they had to manage large crowds at taxi ranks.

Detective Inspector, Jeff Burton, said: “A number of Coronavirus restrictions remain in place, and it is important that people take personal responsibility and follow them, for their own safety and that of others.

“The vast majority of people did just that, but the selfish actions of a minority left us with no choice but to impose the Section 35 dispersal notice for the area. Violence, disorder and antisocial behaviour will not be tolerated."

He added: “We want people visiting areas such as Cardiff Bay to feel safe in doing so, so we will be maintaining a visible presence there throughout the weekend.

"We will be working with licensees in the area and officer will also be using powers to confiscate alcohol where necessary.

“We are starting to see more people visiting our towns and cities as venues gradually begin to reopen, and it is great to see people able to enjoy themselves again.

"But I would urge people to do so safely and responsibly and, as well as abiding by the law, remembering to abide by Welsh Government social distancing measures which are designed for the benefit and safety of us all.”

Temperatures reached 37.8C (100F) at London's Heathrow Airport - the highest so far this year - and reached 37.3C (99.1F) at Kew Gardens, in west London, the Met Office said.

The Met Office said temperatures will be closer to average on Saturday, but it will still be warmer than usual in the South East.

Met Office forecaster, Simon Partridge, said: "Both days are going to be mostly dry across the UK with sunny spells and some showers at times that may be out to the north and the west of the country."

Temperatures in the South East on Saturday could reach 26C or 27C and it could feel a little bit fresher with highs of 23C or 24C on Sunday.