On Monday 11 May, Boris Johnson suddenly announced that people in England could travel any distance to their chosen beauty spot, though they may not stay overnight. He did this without consulting Local Authorities, National Parks or Police.
Why he did this is not clear. It set Councils such as EDDC scrambling to try to respond to the sudden invasion of people streaming down the M5 with no toilet facilities open at any of the beauty spots.
We in the South West have the lowest infection levels in the country, but this precipitate action will have exposed us to the mass movement of people from more highly infected regions, especially the Midlands. The consequences of this are, as yet, unknown.
EDDC announced on 15 May that, subject to a risk assessment, they would attempt to re-open a limited number of toilets by 22 May, coincidentally the day the Guardian and Mirror broke the Dominic Cummings story. These toilets have to be supplied with hand sanitiser and members of Street Scene have to deep clean them three times a day.
The Dominic Cummings’ “No regrets, no apology” press statement in the No 10 Rose garden took place on 25 May. On 28 May, many believe to distract attention, Boris Johnson announced further easing of the lockdown restrictions.
This article describes the consequences.
Owl also draws attention to the clean up cost which has to be bourne by small communities with no compensating revenues being spent locally. This looks like a very political decision taken in London by a Prime Minister with no knowledge or feeling for rural communities.
Owl has received reports of toilet paper strewn along many of the East Devon footpaths close to beaches.
Beaches in Devon were left covered in litter and human waste after a weekend that saw sun worshippers flock to the coast as lockdown measures began to ease.
As temperatures soared in a mini heatwave, thousands flocked to the beaches to enjoy time outside their homes.
Afterwards, council staff were left stunned when they collected enough litter to fill 500 wheelie bins.
Workers discovered glass bottles, disposable barbecue trays, and even human faeces on a plastic picnic blanket at a beach in Teignbridge.
Teignbridge District Council tweeted: “Our staff (and residents) collected 500 wheelie bins worth of discarded litter from beaches and open spaces after the weekend, including glass bottles, cans & bbq trays.
“Please respect our communities and take your rubbish home with you.”
The council’s recycling chief, Alistair Dewhirst, told Devon Live: “Our staff have been working flat-out throughout the half-term week and this weekend to keep on top of the vast amounts of rubbish generated by visitors to our beaches and open spaces.
“This is on top of the additional pressures and risks they face daily in carrying out their work throughout the COVID-19 pandemic…
“It is completely unacceptable for people to leave their rubbish on the beaches for others to clear up.”
Cllr Andrew McGregor, executive member for leisure services and open spaces, added: ““It’s really important that now, more than ever, we protect our local communities from the threat of coronavirus, and across Devon we’re asking people to continue to follow the social distancing guidelines, when out and about in public.
“But we’re also asking people to take their litter home with them, to follow the safety guidance on beaches and in the sea, and to respect local communities by keeping noise down and behaving responsibly.”
Pictures shared on social media show litter collected from beaches in other areas from over the weekend – including in Brighton, Galway and Sefton.
Crowds on beaches and cliffs at Durdle Door in Dorset also showed a “shocking” disregard for the area, a conservation charity has said.
The Jurassic Coast Trust described the “shocking events” of three people suffering serious injuries at the beauty spot after leaping from the top of the limestone arch, which is 200ft high.
Thousands of people were evacuated from the beach and surrounding cliff area to allow air ambulances to land.
Lucy Culkin, chief executive of the charity, said it had received hundreds of messages from members of the public since the weekend.
She said these highlighted the “appalling volume of litter” on beaches, including human waste, sanitary items and surgical masks and gloves, as well as disposable barbecues.
“The lack of respect for our coastline shown by some has deeply saddened our local communities and visitors alike,” she said.
“It was clear to see that some had all but forgotten the guidelines of social distancing or welfare for themselves and others, or indeed any respect for the natural environment they were visiting.”
James Weld, the owner of the Lulworth Estate on which Durdle Door is situated, said the easing of lockdown restrictions to allow for unlimited travel in England had resulted in an “unacceptable influx of visitors”.