Call to ban people travelling more than five miles after crowds swamp beaches

People should be banned from travelling further than five miles after “awful scenes” on beaches in Dorset over the weekend, a council leader has said.

Three people were seriously injured after jumping into the sea from the limestone arch of Durdle Door on Saturday, with thousands having descended on coastal areas to enjoy the hot weather.

It came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week that some of England’s coronavirus lockdown measures would be relaxed within days, allowing up to six people to meet outdoors.

Image:
A man jumps from Durdle Door last week

But Councillor Vikki Slade, the leader of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, suggested travel restrictions should be tightened in England to place it in line with Scotland and Wales.

She said she had witnessed people flouting social distancing rules in her district, with illegal parking, widespread barbecues and council staff being abused when going about their work.

Cllr Slade also claimed that many of those on the beaches in her area had travelled from elsewhere.

“Three weeks ago, following the prime minister’s announcement that people could travel wherever they liked as long as they did not stay out overnight, we discussed the possibility of limiting travel distance,” she said.

“We were told clearly that this was not possible.”

Cllr Slade said the council had asked police for extra support in enforcing social distancing – but had been told “we are policed by consent and that this is not practical”.

Image:
People defied the closure of the beach at Durdle Door on Sunday. Pic: Purbeck Police

The council has also been asked to to stop local residents and councillors from calling the police with their concerns about gatherings, groups and rule breaches, Cllr Slade claimed.

“We saw the most awful scenes in Durdle Door with the arrival of two helicopters to deal with the stupidity of people jumping from the top of cliffs, cheered and clapped by thousands of beach-goers,” she continued.

“We saw the kettling of people to give space to the helicopters and the closely- packed paths as people were told to leave.

“We have seen crowds on our beaches, in large groups clearly not from the same household, we have had council officers spat at, abused and intimidated as they go about their work, and I am asking you all to go back to ministers in Westminster and ask them to put a travel restriction on England, as they have done in Wales and Scotland.

“In those devolved nations you can only travel five miles from home for reasons other than work or risk fines, and I am asking that a similar policy is brought in for England with immediate effect.”

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Durdle Door arch, the popular beauty spot and nearby Lulworth Cove, was closed after the three men who jumped into the sea were seriously injured.

But scores of people still defied efforts to shut the beach on Sunday, and so-called “tombstoners” could even be seen jumping from the 200ft high sea arch.

Dorset Council was due to review the closure of the beach on Monday.