Council urges tourists to stay away over bank holiday weekend
PUBLISHED: 15:55 22 May 2020 | UPDATED: 15:55 22 May 2020
Visitors are being urged to stay away from North Somerset’s beauty spots over the bank holiday weekend to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Scores of people were spotted on Weston beach last weekend after the prime minister relaxed lockdown restrictions.
People were pictured sunbathing on the beach and queuing for fish and chips, sparking fears over lapses in social distancing rules.
Council leaders said the number of visitors was ‘manageable’, with the large majority following the Government guidance.
The authority is reiterating its ‘please stay away’ message to tourists ahead of the three-day weekend to ‘protect the health and wellbeing’ of local communities.
North Somerset Council’s deputy leader Mike Bell said: “North Somerset is not open for visitors. We don’t want people to travel into North Somerset from outside the area for day trips and instead want to encourage them to use outdoor spaces nearer to where they live.”
Pubs, hotels, restaurants and B&Bs are still closed and tourists are being encouraged to stay away.
Cllr Bell added: “We’ve got a really difficult balancing act to achieve between the need to encourage social distancing and manage the risk to local residents versus the need for some businesses to be able to operate and the government’s easing of the lockdown rules.
“Overall, last weekend was manageable. Numbers, in general, were lower than we might have expected and none of the Weston car parks were full.
“Only two takeaway concessions opened on the seafront and we were able to provide advice to them about managing queues and maintaining sensible distancing.
“Most users of the public toilets used them appropriately and people generally used the beach and promenade space to maintain social distancing.”
Cllr Bell said the authority’s facilities would be kept under ‘close review’ especially over the bank holiday weekend, with more restrictions brought in if needed.
Speaking about the council’s decision to reopen some car parks, he added: “I know some residents have questioned why some car parks have been opened.
“We have to recognise – whether we agree with it or not – that the government has said people can drive unlimited distances for day trips, including to the beach.
“We cannot stop visitors from coming here – though we have tried to send the message that we don’t want people to come from out of the area.
“If we keep car parks closed in the face of the prime minister’s assertion that some people can return to work and visits are allowed, we do run the risk that people come anyway and then block residential streets.
“There are no right answers, but we’re doing out best to juggle different pressures as best we can. I’m very happy to hear views from residents and businesses on our approach and if we can do things better, we will.”
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