A major incident has been declared in Dorset after thousands of people flocked to beaches in the southwest to beat the heat after weeks spent in lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Officers said local services had been “stretched to the absolute hilt”, while Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council condemned the “irresponsible” behaviour of crowds amassing in the region.
Extra police patrols and security staff were deployed to man the coast and protect refuse crews who had reportedly faced ”widespread abuse and intimidation” as they emptied overflowing bins.
Wednesday had proven to be the hottest day of the year so far, prompting a similar influx on the nation’s beaches. On Thursday morning, BCP Council said it had collected 33 tonnes of waste from the coastline.
Meanwhile, with roads gridlocked and car parks rammed, authorities said they had issued 558 parking enforcement fines, a record number, and said extra parking enforcement is now in place.
The leader of BCP council, 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”.
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.”
He urged people to take personal responsibility and “think twice” before coming to the area.
He 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.”
The MP for Bournemouth East, Tobias Ellwood, added his voice to the calls for people not to go to the area.
He wrote on Twitter: “With half a 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.”