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Organisations across Dorset are asking visitors to head home if it’s too busy, after huge numbers flocked to Durdle Door and Bournemouth Beach last weekend.

Despite only an easing of coronavirus restrictions, which means that people must still maintain social distancing and not stay overnight, there was a flagrant disregard for the rules as manned roadblocks to prevent overcrowding on beaches were ignored by some day trippers.

Dorset Council, MPs, landowners and the police are meeting this week

At Lulworth, Dorset Council, MPs, landowners and the police are meeting this week to come up with a plan to prevent last weekend’s horrifying scenes.

But with the summer still ahead of us, there’s a plea from Dorset’s emergency services, local authorities and public health officials for residents and visitors to take responsibility for their actions and not to put a huge strain on the county’s limited resources.

Visitors at Durdle Door
Poole Police

Visitors last weekend at Durdle Door

Here’s what they said:

Dorset Council

Dorset Council Leader, Councillor Spencer Flower said:

“Last weekend saw issues in popular destinations with littering, people urinating and defecating in public, people camping overnight and people having dangerous campfires and BBQs – despite extensive warnings against this from all local agencies.

“We were very disappointed to see huge numbers of visitors ignoring manned roadblocks. Council employees were abused by the members of the public as they tried to manage the traffic. This is not acceptable.

“We are meeting with stakeholders this week, including MPs, landowners and police to agree a plan which we hope will help manage the huge visitor numbers to the Lulworth area.”

People herded together on Durdle Door beach
Purbeck Police

People herded together on Durdle Door beach last weekend to make way for the rescue helicopters to land, after several people were seriously injured jumping off the arch into the sea.

Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council

BCP Council Leader, Councillor Vikki Slade:

“Everyone without exception needs to think twice before visiting, take responsibility for their actions and respect the social distancing guidance.

“Whilst most people behaved sensibly, it is clear that many did not. Our bins were not at capacity along the seafront, yet people left 10 tonnes of litter on our beaches. Our parking restrictions are clear, yet people parked dangerously on double yellow lines and pavements, blocked driveways and made it difficult for emergency vehicles to pass.

“We have many toilets open, yet people relieved themselves behind our beach-huts. This behaviour is completely unacceptable at any time, and particularly when we are all still urged to stay home as much as possible and observe social distancing.

“We will continue to work with all agencies to manage this situation and do all we can to prevent any recurrence.”

Public Health Dorset

Director of Public Health for Dorset and BCP Councils Sam Crowe said:

“As lockdown restrictions begin to ease gradually, it’s important to recognise we all need to take responsibility for controlling the spread of coronavirus. Alongside continuing effective social distancing, the NHS Test and Trace service will be key for us to contain local cases and prevent a second peak in infections.”

Casualty treated near the car park at Durdle Door
Lulworth Coastguard

Casualty being treated at Durdle Door last Saturday

South Western Ambulance Service

Ken Wenman, Chief Executive of the South Western Ambulance Service, said:

“Under normal circumstances we welcome all visitors to the South West, but these are not normal circumstances. If you are thinking about visiting either beaches or beauty spots, first consider if it is really necessary, if you decide it is then please do look after yourselves and stay alert! Follow current government guidance on not staying overnight and be aware of social distancing.

“Of course we stand ready to attend those who do need our help in an emergency, but please bear in mind the demand on our resources is high and that during the current the COVID crisis our crews have to wear PPE, and will need to consider their own safety and that of their patients.”

Disposable barbecues left in piles of rubbish
Swanage Fire Station

Disposable barbecues left in piles of rubbish

Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue

Chief Fire Officer Ben Ansell said:

“We have had some very significant incidents since the lockdown measures have been eased. One of the biggest risks we face as the local fire and rescue service, is the irresponsible use of portable barbecues and people having campfires.

“With conditions as dry as they are, we would urge everyone to think twice about having any barbecues or campfires at this time. Fires can quickly start and rapidly get out of hand. This is not only dangerous for my firefighters but also often causes lasting damage to our beautiful countryside as we have recently seen in Wareham forest.”

No barbecues sign
Purbeck Police

No barbecue sign to help prevent wildfires

Dorset Police

Dorset Police Chief Constable James Vaughan said:

“Despite the fact the Government is asking people to stay at home whenever possible, demand on policing in the county is as high now as it was the same time last year before the pandemic.

“Incidents such as the ones we dealt with at Durdle Door means our officers are unable to respond as quickly to other priority calls and incidents. We yet again urge people to act responsibly, use their common sense and make the moral decision to go home if an area looks too busy.

“Personal responsibility is key as we all enjoy these new freedoms. For those who are able to leave their homes as a result of the changes, think carefully about where you are going and how you will be able to keep your distance from others. Keep in mind the purpose of the regulations and the national effort to protect the NHS and save lives.”

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