Motorists urged to shun beauty spots as UK faces balmy bank holiday

Henry McDonald
Photograph: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

The AA has appealed to motorists across the UK to think twice before embarking on long journeys to beaches and beauty spots on the May bank holiday.

With the Met Office forecasting that temperatures in some parts of Britain could rise to more than 26C on Monday, the AA suggested the government should have considered not easing the lockdown until afterwards.

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Councils and some of those involved in tourism also called on the public to avoid swamping coastal resorts this Monday while the pandemic continues.

Edmund King, the AA’s president, said: “Whilst understanding the frustrations of the police and locals, it is obviously difficult for individuals to know how busy an area would be until they get there. In order to take pressure off picturesque coastal and rural areas it would be helpful to clarify the rules rather than condemn the drivers.

“Perhaps the government should have delayed easing leisure trips until after the bank holiday to avoid this situation, but drivers should also think about how far they need to travel to enjoy the great outdoors safely. Many facilities, such as shops and public toilets, will not be open at traditional holiday hotspots.”

King said drivers should plan their journeys in advance this weekend and “if it is busy, hotspots should be avoided”.

One hotspot is expected to be Brighton, where the city council advised would-be visitors from outside the area not to travel there this weekend.

Stewards were deployed on Friday to restrict access to Brighton beach from East Street to West Street. The council said the stewards would be in place from noon to 9pm up to and including bank holiday Monday “to encourage physical distancing and direct people to less busy parts of the seafront if the area becomes too busy”.

The council added: “We are used to catering for up to 11 million visitors each year and are renowned for the warm welcome we usually give to all our valued visitors.

“We are so proud of the city we share but to promote Brighton and Hove as a place to visit at this time would be utterly irresponsible and an insult to the NHS staff and frontline workers who have protected the whole county throughout this devastating crisis.”

Not everyone on Brighton beach agrees with the continued lockdown of most businesses.

Luke Johnson, the chairman of the Brighton Pier Group PLC, said 900 of its staff were desperate to return to their jobs.

“We would love to reopen this weekend but we can’t, we are trapped. But in the longer term, with millions of Brits unable or unwilling to travel abroad this summer staycation could be the salvation of this city. Brighton will have to get to a situation where we are encouraging instead of dissuading people to come to visit us,” Johnson said.

Blackpool has already experienced an increase in visitors to attractions such as Stanley Park, the resort’s 26-acre green space.

Elaine Smith, the chairman of Friends of Stanley Park, said it was too early for the Lancashire resort to absorb a mass influx of tourists.

“We should pray for rain not just to keep the numbers down but also because we’ve just spent £4,000 on our rose garden and at this stage we really would need some rain for them too,” she said.