As crowds flock to our beaches as temperatures soar is lockdown effectively over?

The day after car parks at Camber had to be closed because they were full to overflowing visitors to the area coming to enjoy the sunshine are being urged to stay safe along the Sussex coast.

Changes to Government guidance that now allow people to travel for unlimited exercise has seen an increase in visitors to the area.

While many local authorities are dissuading large numbers of people from visiting because large numbers of people heading to the coast will make social distancing extremely difficult. As recently as a week ago Visit 1066 Country was still urging people to stay away saying: “Please don’t visit Hastings and 1066 Country yet. Public loos still shut and no lifeguards on our beaches. We’ll be here waiting for you when lockdown lifts, along with the seagulls!”

Those who do visit are being reminded of, among other things, the serious risk the unstable cliffs pose along the coastline of Sussex with a real risk to those getting too close to the edge or walking at the base of the cliffs, and beach walkers who get cut off by the tide.

Councillor Claire Dowling, East Sussex County Council’s lead member for environment and transport, said: “Although Government guidance has changed to allow travel for exercise, there is a concern that large numbers of people heading to the coast will make social distancing extremely difficult, risking a second wave of Covid-19.”

As temperatures soared yesterday more people came out to enjoy the weather with more cars in seafront car parks and more people on the beaches of Hastings and St Leonards. But just a few miles east, at Camber, the police had to be called in to help Rother District Council manage numbers.

Crowds flocked to Camber yesterday.

A statement from the council last night said: ‘Today saw large numbers of people head to our beaches to enjoy the warm weather.

“While all beaches across the district were busy, Camber Sands saw thousands of visitors arrive. To manage the high number of cars arriving and protect local residents we were forced to open more car parks. We also asked for support from Sussex Police to manage this… around 2pm the car parks were full and closed.

“The numbers seen at the beach today makes social distancing extremely difficult not only for visitors, but also for residents living in the area. This is a particular problem at high tide when the amount of useable space on the beach at Camber is severely reduced.

“As well as limited car parking and reduced toilet facilities, there is no lifeguard service which means there is no help on hand for anyone who comes into difficulty in the water. With cars parking along the road approaching Camber and a high volume of traffic queuing into the area it also poses a problem for emergency service vehicles.

“We are sharing messages across our social media channels and with media outlets to spread the message far and wide that social distancing is very difficult with visitor numbers as high as we have seen today and to ask people to help us protect the health and safety of the public by not travelling to Camber for the time being.”

The safety messages are part of an ongoing joint campaign being promoted by ESCC, HM Coastguard, The National Trust, South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Wildlife Trust and local councils.

Signs and posters highlighting the dangers are displayed along cliff-top walks, bus routes, at visitor car parks and tourist information centres and on community notice boards throughout the year.

Ms Dowling added: “It’s really important that people do not become complacent and ensure they are maintaining a two-metre distance from anyone not in their household.

“Social distancing is particularly difficult on the county’s beaches at high tide so if you do visit, it is best to avoid doing so at these times.

“We all have a duty to protect ourselves and others, prevent a second wave of the virus which has claimed so many lives, and protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed.”

Information about Covid-19, including the latest Government guidance can be found at www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Information about tide times can be found at www.tidetimes.org.uk/

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