‘Wish you weren’t here!’ – people asked to avoid UK’s beaches this weekend

Michael Drummond and Claire Hayhurst, PA

With balmy temperatures expected over the bank holiday weekend, councils with responsibility for beauty spots are warning people to stay away.

Pictures of crowds flocking to beaches in Brighton and Southend in recent days have raised fears over social distancing.

Following the easing of some lockdown measures last week, there are no restrictions on how far people can go to get to the countryside, National Parks and beaches in England.

With the Met Office forecasting that temperatures could reach highs of 26C on Monday, many people may be planning trips to the beach.

Visitors to Brighton in East Sussex will find stewards stationed around the beach to encourage physical distancing and direct people to less busy parts of the seafront if it becomes too busy.

Councillor Carmen Appich, from Brighton & Hove City Council, said on Friday: “We are so proud of the city we share but to promote Brighton & 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.

“We urge anyone thinking of travelling to the city at this time to consider very carefully how their journey will impact on others and what sort of experience they will have when they arrive, without access to the usual high standards of hospitality.”

Hastings Borough Council meanwhile has said the area is “closed to visitors from outside the town”.

People enjoy the hot weather at Whitley Bay beach in Tyneside (PA)

Holidaymakers are similarly being told that the “clear advice” from the Isle of Wight Council is they should stay away.

After pictures showed crowds at Southend in Essex earlier this week, the council’s leader said the easing of lockdown restrictions has put the council in a “very difficult position”.

Councillor Ian Gilbert said on Friday: “We want people to think twice before visiting and ask if their journey here is really necessary?

“For many weeks we ran a successful Don’t Visit Southend campaign, but the Government’s lifting of restrictions have put us in a very difficult position as day trips and sunbathing are allowed, and takeaways can be open for business.”

After seeing the number of people who headed to its coastline this week, Sefton Council in Merseyside has adopted a new campaign ahead of the bank holiday weekend.

“Wish you weren’t here!” is the council’s take on the picture postcard message it is sending to people thinking of travelling to its beaches from across the North West.

People are also being advised not to visit Blackpool to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.

And the leaders of three local authorities bordering Morecambe Bay have also asked people to think twice before visiting the area.

In Cornwall, council leaders have warned there is no lifeguard cover and a large coastal swell and spring tide will bring hazardous sea conditions over the weekend.

Rob Nolan, cabinet member for environment and public protection at Cornwall Council, said: “Some restrictions about exercising have been lifted, but we have no lifeguard cover yet, so beach safety is a real concern.”

He said social distancing could be an issue on busy beaches and in car parks.

“This is really not the time to overwhelm our beaches – facilities such as public toilets aren’t open yet, and with no trained lifeguards in post on the shore, any coastal incidents risk calling out a Lifeboat crew,” Mr Nolan added.

“This is unnecessary and means a Covid-19 contact risk for both victims and rescuers.”

He said people should not be holidaying in Cornwall and must return to their “principle residence” each night.

Devon County Council asked people to “think twice” about visiting the coast and to consider if they could remain closer to home.

The National Trust is urging people across England to stay close to home and explore local green spaces and countryside this weekend, as part of the collective effort to make easing of the lockdown work.

Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Home Secretary Priti Patel said people can enjoy the outdoors as long as they follow social distancing advice.

She said: “It is inevitable that obviously the public will be out and about a lot more, but of course our message is clear to the public – yes, enjoy being outdoors, we have encouraged people to go out, but we have put a very clear caveat around that.

“This is all conditional. You can enjoy being outdoors in the sun providing you are following the advice and we continue to stop and contain the spread of the infection.”