England

Coronavirus: Police 'fighting losing battle' with campers

Campervans
Image caption Truro MP Cherilyn Mackrory said she had spoken to police and the Prime Minister's Office about people staying in campervans overnight, particularly in Perranporth

People are being reminded the coronavirus lockdown rules do not allow overnight camping at beauty spots.

The warning comes after police woke up people in campervans in Newquay, Cornwall and officers in Dorset found a group camping on a beach in a gazebo.

Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said the force did not want people coming to the South West for sleepovers.

But she said the reality was police were fighting a "losing battle".

Ms Hernandez said beaches and beauty spots in Devon and Cornwall had been "inundated" with campervans, caravans and day trippers but she said no public toilets were open and many car parks were closed, causing people to park illegally.

"We are worried going into the bank holiday weekend that people are not heeding the advice about staying home," she said.

She added that the government guidance was that people should spend the night at their primary residence, and pointed out that there was only one hospital in Cornwall.

On Thursday Newquay police said officers had been out on dawn patrol, waking up people who had stayed overnight in vehicles.

Image copyright Newquay Police
Image caption Police in Newquay were out early on Thursday morning waking up overnight visitors
Image copyright Newquay Police
Image caption Officers said that with their "engagement, explanation and education" the visitors had moved on

In nearby Perranporth, residents took to social media to share pictures of campervans in a clifftop car park and of tents on the beach early in the morning. Campers have also been asked to move on in North Devon.

Truro and Falmouth MP Cherilyn Mackrory said she had spoken to the Prime Minister's Office, as well as local police.

"Earlier today it was brought to my attention that there were a number of caravans and campervans that were parked up and stayed overnight last night on the north coast - particularly in Perranporth," she said.

"Let me be clear, this is not on."

Image copyright Brad Mears
Image caption Pictures of tents on Perranporth beach were posted online on Thursday morning along with a picture of a bench that had been destroyed in a beach fire
Image copyright Rob Joules
Image caption North Devon resident Rob Joules tweeted that he had been out near Croyde trying to move on campers who stayed overnight

Brad Mears, who lives in Perranporth, said people had been camping on the beach and in the dunes all week.

He said he had seen campers using a cave as a toilet and the remains of a bench from a nearby pub were visible in the remnants of a fire.

"It is not good. My mum is petrified of getting [coronavirus]," he said.

"Everyone has been so good down here and now I don't know."

Mrs Mackrory said the behaviour of those who chose to break the rules regarding overnight stays was "irresponsible and dangerous" and "risks the health and wellbeing of our coastal communities with a second peak of Covid-19".

In Dorset on Thursday, police patrolling Sandbanks beach near Poole said they had spoken to a group of people from London who had camped overnight in a gazebo.

Image copyright Dorset Police
Image caption Dorset Police found a group of people sleeping in a gazebo on Sandbanks beach near Poole

Councillor Laura Miller, who represents the area of Dorset that includes Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, said people had been sleeping in their cars and urinating in gardens.

And on Thursday night, the coastguard and police were called out after a man from London pitched two tents "around one foot" from the cliff edge, she said, adding that it was "so dangerous".

In the Lake District, the national park authority said dozens of people were attempting to stay overnight.

Richard Leafe, chief executive of the Lake District National Park Authority, said: "The message from Cumbria Police and ourselves is clear. Follow the rules.

"We would like to thank the British public for heeding our call not to rush back to the Lake District and other national parks.

"We have found the vast majority of people are respecting social distancing and are following government guidance and we thank them for that."

Nick Lomas, the Caravan and Motorhome Club's director general, pointed out that many motorhome owners would be using their vehicles legitimately.

He said: "As a responsible members' club, we actively encourage members to adhere to rules and guidelines.

"Many people have a motorhome/campervan as their only vehicle and will sometimes need to use it for trips to the shops and if travelling for exercise.

"Neither of these groups are breaking the current regulations and we are sure the public will recognise this."

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