Council declares major incident as thousands flock to beaches

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A police force and south coast council have pleaded with people to stay away after services were “stretched to the absolute hilt” when thousands of sunseekers flocked to beaches amid the heatwave.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole council said it had no choice but to declare a major incident and condemned the “irresponsible” behaviour of crowds who gridlocked roads, dumped rubbish, parked illegally and some who reportedly got involved in fights.

Extra police patrols have been brought in and security is in place to protect refuse crews who the council said faced “widespread abuse and intimidation” as they emptied overflowing bins.

Thirty-three tonnes of waste was cleaned up along the full stretch of coastline on Thursday morning, in addition to eight tonnes collected between the piers on Wednesday, the council said.

Council Leader Vikki Slade said: “We are absolutely appalled at the scenes witnessed on our beaches, particularly at Bournemouth and Sandbanks, in the last 24-48 hours.

“The irresponsible behaviour and actions of so many people is just shocking and our services are stretched to the absolute hilt trying to keep everyone safe. We have had no choice now but to declare a major incident and initiate an emergency response.”

The council said there had been “a number of incidents reported which involved excessive alcohol and fights”.

Roads, which were gridlocked into the early hours, according to the council, now have signs telling people the area is full.

Ms Slade said the popular tourist destination is not yet in a position to deal with the numbers of visitors it has had this week, nor to handle the fallout from such large crowds.

She said: “Please do not come. We are not able to welcome you yet.”

Assistant Chief Constable Sam de Reya, of Dorset Police, said: “These are unprecedented times and we are urging people to stay away from the area of Bournemouth Beach and other Dorset beaches.

“The declaration of a major incident allows us to bring agencies together so we can take actions available to us to safeguard the public as much as possible.”

She urged people to take personal responsibility and “think twice” before coming to the area.

She said: “Clearly we are still in a public health crisis and such a significant volume of people heading to one area places a further strain on emergency services resources.

“This influx of visitors to our area places a significant increase in demand on our service and we would ask people to please bear with us.

“We would therefore stress again that we are asking people to please stay away from the area.”

Bournemouth East MP Tobias Ellwood added his voice to the calls for people not to go to the area.

He tweeted: “With 1/2 million visitors in Dorset, roads are gridlocked, hindering emergency vehicles & beaches are full – with Dispersal Orders on both piers. I’ve asked Police Minister to dispatch additional police if Dorset requests.”

Anna Harvey, chairwoman of Dorset Police Federation, the body representing police officers in the region, said officers have been forced to work extended shifts in the hot weather dealing with drunkenness and children separated from their families.

She said: “Dorset Police – and our colleagues on the ground – are doing the best they can in these very difficult and extreme circumstances. It’s 5pm now and people are still arriving despite the requests to stay away.

“People were asked by the Government to show common sense and at times there has not been much evidence of that being on display. We are still in the middle of a pandemic.

“Our colleagues are doing a fantastic job in very trying and hot conditions – remaining courteous, professional and robust when needs. And let’s please spare a thought for them in their full kit in this heat.”

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