An Open Letter to local residents from Councillors May Haines and Mohan Iyegar
We are very aware of the disruption that occurred three weeks ago and in recent days and would like to thank all residents who have been in touch. A whole range of issues have been flagged including gridlock, long lines of traffic, bad parking, blocking of driveways, parking on yellows, littering, no toilets, barbecues, bonfires, poor spacing between cyclists and pedestrians, overnight camping and anti-social behaviour.
With the fine weather forecast, we had asked within the council that measures be put in place to ensure that problems didn’t recur. After significant lobbying, the toilets on the seafront were opened in Canford Cliffs, with a final one due to open this weekend. However, on parking issues, we are disappointed that no extra wardens were on duty as a deterrent to bad parking and – as a good number of residents have told us – for the significant income from fines. Money that a cash-strapped council might welcome.
We have lobbied Dorset’s Police and Crime Commissioner to urge the police to use dispersal orders, whereby “the police can ask a group of two or more people to leave the dispersal area if they are doing anything wrong, or if they believe that they may or are likely to cause a nuisance to someone else”. While it is pleasing to note that this will now be used, it is very disappointing that it will only cover the piers in Bournemouth and not the beaches along Poole. We will continue to lobby that these powers be extended to cover Poole.
With regard to traffic queues, we reported on Wednesday morning that the electronic sign on Shore Rd wasn’t working, and as at 4pm on Thursday it still wasn’t. No alternate signage was put up to tell drivers that both Shore Road and Sandbanks were full and to seek alternate parking. Again, some simple signage could have assisted drivers to seek alternatives instead of staying in a queue only to find there was no place to park. To say nothing of the air-quality of having so many cars idling.
The subject of bonfires and the use of disposable barbecues has been raised with senior officers. We have also written to – and had a response from – the chief executive of Tesco asking for a discussion on the continued sale of this product, or at least a safer way of packaging and disposing of it. This is another path we shall pursue.
Safety patrol officers are deployed to patrol the beaches. We will ask that some officers work a later shift to intercept campers and ask the police for more vigilance to move them on.
Underlying all of this is your ward councillors’ duty to lobby for local residents’ concerns and challenge the council’s leadership to take action. The history of this matter goes a little further back. When full-lockdown was in place, everyone knew that the easing of lockdown could bring a rush of people out-of-doors, with the risk of a party-atmosphere taken to excess. Over many weeks we have fed the concerns of residents and our own concerns to the council leader and chief executive. We have asked for action-plans to be in place ‘ready to go’. We have asked for ward councillors along the seafront to be involved in developing those plans. As recently as two weeks ago, we repeated our request at the council’s overview and scrutiny board for readiness plans to be in place. As with previous requests, it was turned down.
Residents have now just had an experience over the past few days worse than ever. The council leader has maintained a stance throughout that everything that could be done, was being done and plans were in place to deal with the forecast good weather. The plan was not able to cope with the number of visitors that arrived, particularly on Wednesday. Now the message has changed and an ‘emergency situation’ has been acknowledged. That which could have been foreseen and prepared for is now a rescue after-the-event.
We are now working to ascertain what this emergency-situation means practically for residents. A publicised message in the media of “Please do not come – we are not able to welcome you yet” from the leader will not deter any visitors determined to come to our beaches. The quote of a “multi-agency effort to safeguard the public” holds more promise. We shall be challenging BCP’s leader and chief executive on:
- What exactly the arrangement is between the council teams, blue-light services and other environmental and safety organisations;
- How long the arrangement will be in place – mindful we are only at the start of summer;
- What improvements local residents can expect to see as a result.
We will continue to work on your behalf.
May and Mohan