LGA: Beach safety funding needed to prevent chaotic scenes

The “rush to the sun” following easing of lockdown restrictions has become a serious challenge for councils responsible for beach safety, particularly as many lifeguard services have been withdrawn.


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People are being urged to put safety before any sun this weekend to avoid putting themselves and others at risk when they visit popular beach destinations.

The Local Government Association is calling for government to set out clear guidance for the public about visiting beaches and for fast-track government funding to help fund beach patrols, additional toilets and prominent signage, to improve safety at beach beauty spots.

The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, is strongly advising people to think carefully before travelling to beaches and to get in the habit of checking they are open and safe to visit, before any potential local COVID-19 lockdowns.

The “rush to the sun” following easing of lockdown restrictions has become a serious challenge for councils responsible for beach safety, particularly as many lifeguard services have been withdrawn.

In Dorset, huge numbers of people recently flocked to Durdle Door, with three thrill-seekers left seriously injured after jumping from the 200ft Durdle Door arch. Despite a critical incident being declared at the site by emergency services due to the number of injuries, thousands flocked to the area again the next day – ignoring road closures put in place.

It follows tragedies in Cornwall, where a teenage girl whose boat capsized and a man who was rescued from the sea, both died.

As well as the life-threatening risks to life of tombstoning – jumping into water from height – and swimming in dangerous seas with no lifeguard patrols, the lack of open public toilets, illegal parking and increased litter poses a serious risk to public safety at many beach locations.

The LGA is urging people to check advice on local council websites before they travel to check whether the beach is open and lifeguard provision is at normal levels.

Where normal lifeguard provision is absent, visitors are advised not to enter the water and to read safety information provided locally.

People must also not ignore beach closures or try and use dangerous alternate routes to a beach.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“Councils have serious concerns following the senseless behaviour and chaotic scenes we have witnessed at beaches and beauty spots around the country in recent weeks.

“The tragic events we have seen should serve as a warning that there is a genuine risk to life if people don’t take care and follow safety guidelines. They are there for a reason and we would strongly urge people to pay attention and follow these.

“We fully understand people’s frustration with the recent restrictions and their desire to escape and enjoy any warm weather by going to the beach, but this must not be to the detriment of people’s safety.

“We also urgently need government funding to help councils introduce measures to improve safety, in particular at a time when there are fewer lifeguards at beaches and coastal spots.

“Our message to the public is think carefully about making any trip to the beach or coast, and if you are, to check advice on council websites before travelling, to make sure beaches are open and safe to visit. Lives could depend on it.”