Preparations have already begun for a surge of visitors to Dorset at the end of the latest lockdown, following the chaos of last summer which saw thousands packed onto beaches at Studland, Lulworth and Bournemouth.
At the Dorset Police and Crime Panel meeting on Thursday 4th February 2021, councillor Bobbie Dove asked the panel what provision would be in place for policing on high demand days throughout summer 2021, when staycation tourists are expected to flock to coastal regions including Dorset?
Beachgoers on Knoll Beach in Studland in summer 2020
“Even more people in this county this spring and summer, than we saw last year.”
Chief constable for Dorset, James Vaughan said:
“We’ve been planning for summer policing since the autumn. We know that as we come out of lockdown – fingers crossed in the spring – and the sun will come out, nobody can go on holiday abroad and Dorset’s a destination of choice and we’re expecting and planning for there to be even more people in this county this spring and summer, than we saw last year.”
“I was in a call with the Home Secretary on Monday and again with the policing minister on Tuesday and I know that the commissioner has also had calls with ministers this week.
“…The surge funding that we’ve had (from the government) – a quarter of a million pounds – has been hugely helpful and allowed us to flex in a short time, tactical resources to manage Covid and summer surges.
“We’ve asked for that to be considered (again). Apparently, that is being looked at favourably. That would be hugely helpful.”
Ferry Road in Studland was blocked as visitors parked along the road in summer 2020
Measures in place for the future
Later in the meeting, councillor George Farquhar tackled Dorset’s police and crime commissioner, Martyn Underhill on what measures would be put in place for the future, citing the mass influx of tourists to Bournemouth beach after the first lockdown.
The commissioner expressed how concerned he was last year, about the large numbers that flocked to Dorset’s beaches.
Despite social distancing, beachgoers at Durdle Door all had to be grouped together to allow for the emergency landing of rescue helicopters to save the lives of several men who had jumped off the top of the Durdle Door arch
“3,000 people on a beach that’s no bigger than a football pitch – just scary…”
“I was actually more concerned by Lulworth than I was at Bournemouth. Lulworth was scary. 3,000 people on a beach that’s no bigger than a football pitch – just scary from a contamination point of view.”
“We established – it took us months to establish, the reason there were so many people going to Lulworth coming from the West Midlands was that the latest Bollywood movie had been filmed at Lulworth.
“That’s how complicated this is. We were all staring at each other in confusion in the first two weeks of Lulworth – chief constable, chief fire, police, me – all saying: why is everyone going to Lulworth? And then we find out it’s because of a Bollywood film. So it’s a complex landscape.”
Reassurance that this year everyone would be better prepared
However there was reassurance that this year everyone would be better prepared from the chief executive of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Simon Bullock. He said:
“Planning around Easter – and indeed summer – has already started. The LRF (Local Resilience Forum) has already recognised that should the national lockdown be lifted, potentially there will be higher than normal numbers of people staycationing, and obviously they’re going to be looking at places like Dorset and the wider south west.
“We are already working together, very closely, mindful of avoiding some of the issues that we saw on our beaches last year.
“The LRF ran a specific goal group on this, last summer. It was chaired by the Dorset Police assistant chief constable – but obviously is an LRF construct (that) involved membership from right across the public sector.
“At that group, we discussed issues like parking, traffic flows, waste management, and also looked really carefully at the mix of resourcing that is going to be put into place on our beaches and our beauty spots right across local authorities, policing and also the voluntary sector.
“It’s probably fair to say that collectively we were more reactive last summer. I think it’s fair to say we didn’t anticipate some of the larger influxes of visitors exactly as the commissioner has said, and pretty much like every other location across the country, we did struggle a little to meet demand.
“I just would want to reflect on that and to say – yes, I think that potentially we were caught out last time…But also as well, once we started to appreciate the particular scenario we were in, we started to look outside at what support was available, and so we went to contracted resources.
“We tried to bring in things like additional parking enforcement. We looked at bringing in the low loaders that move cars around who are blocking roads. We couldn’t get one. We literally couldn’t get one. We couldn’t hire one for the day.
“Toilet blocks – they were unavailable. Additional waste bins – they were like gold dust at that particular time. And there was a national shortage of these.”
As tourists flocked to Dorset in summer 2020, the police put up emergency warning signs
“We should be much more significantly informed for summer this time round”
Simon Bullock stressed that the experience of last year meant that plans were already advanced for this year’s expected influx of visitors. He added:
“To give some assurance, the same summer group…has already started to look at Easter issues and half term issues already and we should be much more significantly informed for summer this time round.”
Tonnes of rubbish was collected by local volunteers after the crowds had left
“We were massively caught out by a perfect storm”
Councillor George Farquhar, who had posed the earlier question about Dorset’s policing plans for this summer after last year’s issues, responded:
“I think all the agencies involved did the very best that they could with that very unusual point of the year…We were massively caught out by a perfect storm, if you wish, with lockdown lifting and the weather.
“I’m really pleased to hear that the forum is already standing up and thinking about its message should this storm cloud start gathering again.”