Communities around the UK coast and potentially elsewhere are now working very hard to recover from several days where our roads became blocked with visitors and beaches got covered in tonnes of rubbish and excrement as the huge numbers of people left having spent time on beaches with few toilets available. Given that the weather is dropping back to a more conventional British Summer experience for the next few days, there is now an opportunity for Boris Johnson and his Government to take a step back from their stupidity earlier this week. They need to deliver a proper “sensible package of measures” which is what Johnson claimed was available when on Tuesday he responded to a question from Peter Kyle. The question was “what is the Prime Minister going to do to ensure that destination communities, such as the one I represent are extra safe?” That question was treated very badly with this response “I will be calling on local representatives such as the hon. Gentleman to show some guts and determination, and to champion their communities as venues for people to return to and support.” Sadly as well as calling for guts which Kyle clearly has, Johnson then mentioned some fanciful theoretic ideas that have no real prospect to gather peoples names and addresses when they buy some beers relating to an app that does not yet exist. So he must now very quickly deliver some very clear public messages that will ensure that all of us along with our Councils and Police Forces have a recognised basis for preventing people to visit villages, towns and beaches if they are not ready for visitors or if the numbers arriving rise beyond a sustainable level.
The bizarre reason why I referred to this answer as a U turn in my blog on Wednesday, is that just over a week ago on Friday 19th June Johnson stated “We’re moving now from a world I think in which we have to impose a huge one size fits all national lock down programme to one in which we’re able to do more localised responses” Yet when it came to that request from Peter Kyle, he had clearly forgotton what he had stated four days earlier. The reason why we now need some sensible measures is that there is currently no easy way of knowing before people set off to visit a beach whether the beach will be open or indeed if it will be full. This information is vital if we are to take Johnsons colleague, Matthew Hancock seriously. He was speaking during a Talk Radio interview a snippet of which appeared on Radio 4 which indicated he thought we could anticipate where the places are that are already full and choose not to set of to them which is of course nonsense. More of his piece was reported here on Metro when he reminded those listening that the government could shut down beaches completely, he apparently said:
We do have that power. I am reluctant to use it because people have had a pretty tough lockdown and I want everybody to be able to enjoy the sunshine. But the key is to do it with respect for the rules – stay with your household, stay a good distance from other households. But we do have those powers and if we see a spike in the number of cases then we will take action.
So for me the issue is to set up some sensible measures now, as it may take 2-3 weeks before any spike could emerge in COVID-19 and in that time the amount of waste on beaches and the blocking of access to residents could be huge. Along with Johnson and Hancock, there are other people who could make sensible responses. So on the same day that Camber sands and the surrounding roads were getting blocked up which prevented the police from getting in front of people and according to reports left one child blocked from getting home for four hours, their local MP, Sally-Ann Hart was in the Houses of Parliament and she stated in a debate
Beautiful Hastings and Rye is particularly dependent on the tourism and hospitality sectors, so I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister earlier this week announce the reopening of those sectors from 4 July.
It would clearly be useful for Hart to speak out to the Prime Minister that along with all other MPs with coastal areas, that we need a more effective approach. On the same theme when Boris Johnson was asked a question by Caroline Ansell as part of PMQs, he ended his response with the comment “What we will also do is support tourism across the whole of the UK, and I hope that she will put the welcome sign above Eastbourne this summer, so that people can enjoy its attractions.” The detail regarding the Summer is that we are already in the middle of it. So clearly both Hart and Ansell could raise their concerns with Johnson and Hancock who will perhaps listen to these two Tories more than they will to Kyle who is a Labour MP. Thankfully elsewhere in Parliament he did receive support from Baroness Smith in the House of Lords:
When urging others to act responsibly, Mr Johnson has to understand that this also applies to him. When debating the Statement, my friend and south coast parliamentary colleague, the Hove MP Peter Kyle, sought advice from the Prime Minister. Bear in mind the scenes that we saw on beaches yesterday. My honourable friend asked how, in the absence of an app for tracking and tracing, we can keep places such as beachfront bars safe where it is impossible to get customers’ addresses. In response, Mr Johnson bellowed that elected representatives should “show some guts”. That is a pretty unhelpful and offensive response. I am sure that the noble Baroness will disassociate herself from comments such as that, but, more importantly, can she shed any light on the very sensible question asked by my honourable friend?
Sadly Baroness Evans who is the Leader of the House of Lords did not respond to this part of Baroness Smith’s question. However now is the opportunity for the Prime Minister or Baroness Evans or Matthew Hancock to come up with some sensible proposals to reduce the risks for many people in the UK across our coastal spaces!